BRUSSELS – President Biden and his fellow Western leaders released a confrontational statement on the behavior of the Russian and Chinese governments on Sunday, lambasting Beijing for its internal crackdown, vowing to investigate the origins of the pandemic and denouncing Moscow for using agents neurotoxicants and cyber weapons.
Concluding the first in-person summit meeting since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, leaders attempted to present a united front against a series of threats. But they disagreed on critical issues, from timelines for shutting down coal combustion to committing tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to challenge the Belt and Road initiative. the Beijing Highway, Chinese overseas investment and lending surge.
Yet as they left Cornwall, where they had met at a seaside resort overlooking the rocky outcrops of the far west of England, almost all of the attendees greeted a new tone as they began to mend the breaches of four years of relations with Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J Trump.
“It’s great to have an American president who is part of the club and who is very willing to cooperate,” French President Emmanuel Macron said after meeting Mr. Biden. “The worldview could envision a betrayal of American interests.
The difference in tone was indeed striking: the last time the Group of 7 met in person, in Canada in 2018, its final communiqué never mentioned China and the United States disassociated itself from all of them. commitments to face the climate crisis. Then, Mr. Trump withdrew US support from the rally’s final declaration.
This time, however, the session clearly had Cold War overtones – a reflection of the growing sense that a declining Russia and a rising China are forming their own opposing bloc to challenge the West.
The group’s final statement called on China to restore freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong when Britain brought it back under Chinese control, and condemned Mr. Putin’s “destabilizing behavior and malicious activities”, including the interference with the elections and a “systematic crackdown” on dissidents and the media.
He made the West the ideological rival of a growing number of autocracies, offering a democratic alternative which Mr Biden said had to prove to be more attractive around the world.
“Everyone at the table understood and understands both the gravity and the challenges we face and the responsibility of our proud democracies to step up and deliver to the rest of the world,” said Mr Biden, returning to what has become the central doctrine of its foreign policy: A struggle between dissonant, often unruly democracies and brutally effective but repressive autocrats.
Even before the meeting broke up, the Chinese Embassy in London, which had almost trolled the statements of the Group of 7 nations – the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom – made a bitter denunciation.
“The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” the Chinese government said in a statement.
China is a member of the larger and more controversial Group of 20, whose member countries will meet in Italy at the end of October, which could be the first time in more than a decade for Mr Biden to sit face to face with President Xi Jinping.
Even though Mr Biden has been successful in pushing his counterparts to take a more aggressive stance against autocracies, the group has failed to come to an agreement on key elements of the president’s first foreign policy agenda.
He has not set a timeline to phase out the use of coal to generate electricity, and climate activists have said it shows a lack of resolve to tackle one of the world’s leading causes. of global warming.
And while the leaders called on China to respect “fundamental freedoms, especially with regard to Xinjiang,” there has been no agreement on banning Western participation in projects benefiting from forced labor.
Instead, Beijing’s effort to tackle human rights abuses ended with a vague statement that the allies were setting up a task force to “identify areas for enhanced cooperation and collective efforts to eradicate the use of all forms of forced labor in global supply chains ”.
Mr Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told Air Force One on the way from London to Brussels on Sunday evening that the question was: “Can we transform the commitments on forced labor and end the funding?” overseas coal into actual results by the end of this year?
And to counter the development push of China’s Belt and Road, G7 leaders pledged to set up another task force to design an infrastructure assistance program they called Build Back Better. for the world, echoing the theme of Mr. Biden’s campaign.
Biden’s aides argued that he never expected to persuade the allies to adopt his entire agenda. But they said he had pushed them towards concrete deals, starting with a minimum corporate tax of 15 percent, to prevent companies from seeking the cheapest tax haven to locate their headquarters and operations.
His staff also cited the commitment to deliver more than a billion doses of vaccines to the developing world by the end of 2022. Half would come from the United States, although Mr Biden, in an aside to reporters Sunday, said vaccine distribution would be a “long constant project” and that the United States could eventually donate another billion doses.
The leaders unanimously pledged to halve their collective emissions by 2030, in stark contrast to the statement released by the same group three years ago in Charlevoix, Canada, where the United States refused to sign the commitment to fight climate change.
That year, President Trump joined the summit’s comprehensive deal, but angrily withdrew his support in an Air Force One tweet as he left the summit, accusing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to be “very dishonest and weak”.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference before visiting the Queen at Windsor Castle, Biden told reporters he was “happy” with the way the joint statement addressed China.
“I think China needs to start acting more responsibly in terms of international human rights standards and transparency,” Biden said. “Transparency matters at all levels. “
Sullivan said G7 leaders had differing views on China’s “depth of challenge” and how to calibrate cooperation with confrontation in relations with Beijing. He said the discussion would spill over into a meeting of NATO allies on Monday.
The strategy, Sullivan explained, is “don’t try to push for confrontation or conflict, but be prepared to try to rally allies and partners towards what is going to be fierce competition in the years to come -” and that’s in the area of security. as in the economic and technological fields.
On Russia, Biden told reporters he agreed with Putin’s assessment, in an interview with NBC, that relations between Washington and Moscow were at a “low point” and s’ is committed to being “very simple” with Mr. Poutine during their project meeting Wednesday in Geneva.
Topping the list of concerns at this meeting is the SolarWinds cyberattack, a sophisticated effort by Russia’s most elite intelligence agency to undermine trust in US computer networks by infiltrating the network management software used by the agencies. government and most US businesses. He should also accept Russia’s willingness to host criminal groups that carry out ransomware attacks.
But Mr Biden also spoke of areas of potential compromise, including providing food and humanitarian aid to people in Syria. “Russia has engaged in activities which we believe are contrary to international standards, but it has also solved real problems which it will find difficult to solve,” he said.
Mr. Biden said he was open to Mr. Putin’s proposal to extradite Russian cybercriminals to the United States, on condition that the Biden administration agrees to extradite the criminals to Russia. But the last time Mr. Putin offered this to President Trump, it turned out that he wanted the United States to dismiss the dissidents and allow the questioning of Michael D. McFaul, the American ambassador to Moscow under President Barack Obama.
On climate, energy experts said the inability of G7 countries, which together produce about a quarter of global climate pollution, to agree on a specific end date for coal use weakens their ability to rely on China to reduce its own coal consumption.
The Group of 7 has pledged that their countries will end by 2022 international funding for coal projects that do not include technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions. They also promised a “massively carbon-free” electricity sector by the end of the decade. And they promised accelerated efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the meeting’s host, hailed the summit’s results, he battled a diplomatic outbreak over Northern Ireland, which has been at the center of tense negotiations between Britain and the European Union on post-Brexit trade rules. .
British newspapers reported that Mr Macron suggested to Mr Johnson in a meeting on Saturday that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Sunday described the remarks reported by the French president as “offensive”.
But Mr Johnson himself has tried to play down the dispute, refusing at a press conference to discuss the exchange and insisting that Northern Ireland had only occupied leaders’ time for a very short time. during a meeting.
“What I am saying is that we will do whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the UK,” Mr Johnson said.
Mark Landler, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.