President Biden had tough talk for Vladimir Putin when he addressed US troops stationed in the United Kingdom tonight.
Speaking at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk he said: ‘I’m meeting with Mr. Putin to let him know what I want him to know,’ drawing cheers from the Air Force personnel.
At the start of his speech, Biden told the standing troops to sit by saying ‘at ease’, then said: ‘I keep forgetting I am president’.
It marked the start of his first foreign trip as president; eight days in Europe where he will meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his new wife Carrie, the rest of the G7 leaders, The Queen, NATO officials and, finally, Putin on June 16 in Geneva.
When he meets Johnson tomorrow, he is set to set up a new ‘Atlantic Charter’ modeled on the post-Second World War pact made by FDR and Winston Churchill and will work to open up travel between the US and UK ‘as soon as possible’.
The president has trashed talked Putin before, calling him a ‘killer with no soul,’ and has made it clear he intends to take Putin to task for Moscow’s interference in US elections, its treatment of dissidents and the series of ransomware attacks carried out by Russian hackers.
At their arrival on Wednesday night, Joe and Jill Biden received a warm welcome at the base, garnering several rounds of applause.
They spoke outdoors as the sun set behind them.
Biden also mentioned his late son Beau, a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.
He teared up as he thanked military personnel the Royal Air Force Mildenhall for their service.
‘I wish my major was here to thank you as well,’ he said referencing his late son, who died of brain cancer in 2015. ‘You’re the best of our country,’ he added.
He also outlined the goals of his trip and the message he wanted to give to world: ‘The United States is back and the democracies of the world are standing together to face the toughest challenges.’
Biden said during his meetings with fellow leaders, he would focus on COVID, climate change, and on protecting themselves from ‘the growing threat of ransomware attacks…[and] the autocrats who are letting it happen.’
After his G7 meeting, Biden will meet in Brussels with NATO and EU leaders, where the Russian and Chinese threats will top the agenda.
After his remarks, Biden left the stage to shake hands with service members.
Before he poke, Jill Biden admonished him to focus when she addressed the troops.
‘Joe pay attention,’ the first lady told the president.
She had just told the service members to sit down.
President Biden, standing behind her, turned around to see the troops positioned behind the stage.
That was when the first lady asked chided him to watch her as she addressed Air Force personnel at Royal Air Force Mildenhall.
In her brief remarks, the first lady thanked the troops for their service and touted her Joining Forces initiative – a group she formed with then-first lady Michelle Obama to support families of American troops.
‘I hope that you know how special you are. And we are so grateful for your and your family’s service,’ she said.
The Bidens are headed to Carbis Bay near St Ives, where the leaders of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada will gather for three days to discuss the pandemic and climate change among other issues.
Biden is scheduled to meet with Johnson for face-to-face talks Thursday – the first time the two men will have met in person – before the G7 Summit formally gets underway on Friday.
When the summit ends on Sunday, the President and First Lady will meet the Queen at Windsor Castle.
Biden will then depart for Brussels where he will attend a NATO summit and a joint US-EU summit before then heading to Geneva for a bilateral showdown with Putin.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Biden said that the trip is about ‘realising America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners’ as he attempts to build bridges with Britain and the EU after some leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel clashed with his predecessor Donald Trump.
Trump engaged in a bitter trade row with the EU and slammed NATO members for failing to spend more on defense – sparking fears that he would pull the US out of the military alliance and embolden Russian activity in Ukraine and eastern Europe.
Trump also formally withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Agreement – both negotiated by Barack Obama.
One of Biden’s first acts as President was to rejoin the climate accord and reopen nuclear talks with the Iranian government, as he sought to reverse the actions of the previous administration.