History will in a sense be reconstructed during President Biden’s first official overseas trip, beginning with the United Kingdom. More dramatic than his warning to Russia ~ that it faces “robust and meaningful” consequences if it engages in “harmful activities” ~ is the scheduled agreement that he and the Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, will sign on what they call a new Atlantic Charter, 80 years after it was concluded in 1941 at the height of World War II (1939-45).
Mr Biden has been explicit on his intention to strengthen ties with US allies, following strained relations under the Trump administration. The original Atlantic Charter, a watershed document, had shaped the narrative of the United Nations for as long as it did. The new pact will be a modern version of the one agreed to by the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, with a focus on challenges including climate change and security.
Biden and Johnson will very probably be riveted to the contemporary issue of the pandemic that has afflicted the world in the wider canvas. Indeed, the world has not been the same again since the summer of 2020. Biden and Johnson are aiming to refresh a vital relationship, after the turbulence of the Trump years and the pressures of the pandemic.
As President, Donald Trump had caused a flutter in the roost when he referred to the UN as an “anachronism”. In recent years, it is the world body’s impotence and dithering that has dominated its response to the ferment almost anywhere in the world, and palpably so in Libya and Syria. It has been prevaricating no less in its dealings with embattled Myanmar. During a packed eight-day European visit, Mr Biden will meet the Queen at Windsor Castle, will attend a G7 leaders’ meeting, and will be a participant at his first Nato summit as President.
Above all, he and Mr Johnson will initiate an essay towards reconstructing world history by redefining the contours of the Atlantic Charter, verily a landmark document in world history in the early 1940s. While the two leaders have disagreed on critical issues, on Thursday they stressed the enduring strength of the wartime Charter. The proposed updated document has been greeted as a “profound statement of purpose”, one that echoes the 80-yearold Charter by underscoring the original declaration.
Specifically, the “democratic world is right and just the best” one for confronting the world’s challenges. The Charter did not envision a new Cold War between great powers, nor a world whose problems ~ climate change, the pandemic, technological warfare and economic competition ~ are increasingly complex. Mr Biden’s remark is at the core of the confabulations ~ “The US and its allies are engaged in an existential struggle between democracy and autocracy”.