As President Biden began his first trip abroad since taking office, the Pew Research Center released a report last week documenting the "dramatic" improvements in the United States' international stature following the Democrat's inauguration. With Biden in the White House -- and with Donald Trump out of it -- global confidence in the presidency has soared; the U.S. is now more respected; and people abroad have greater confidence that the U.S. can be counted on to do the right thing.
As it turns out, it's not just the general public abroad that's feeling a renewed sense of hope. As was evident at the G-7 summit, many of those citizens' leaders, who struggled with Biden's immediate predecessor, quickly recognized the new American president as a trusted partner. Politico described the international gathering a "global win" for Biden.
Overall, the G-7 has delivered a significant win for Biden. While the leaders were panned for not doing enough to vaccinate the world and frequently fell short of consensus on the toughest issues, they're definitely moving in the same direction, and other leaders fell over themselves to welcome Biden to their table.
At one point on Saturday, reporters asked Biden if he'd convinced his fellow G-7 counterparts that the United States has returned to its previous position as a global leader. The American president demurred and suggested they ask French President Emmanuel Macron.
When reporters directed the same question to the French leader, Macron replied, "Definitely." He later added, "It's great to have a U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate."
The implication, of course, was that this marked a change in the United States' diplomatic posture.
He wasn't alone in expressing relief. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who struggled to hide her difficulties with Trump, told reporters at the summit, "Being able to meet Joe Biden is obviously important because he stands for the commitment to multilateralism, which we were missing in recent years."
Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a relative ideological ally of Trump, told reporters that everyone at the gathering was "absolutely thrilled" to see Biden. Johnson described his discussion with the new American president as "a breath of fresh air."
Some of this dynamic was driven by Biden himself -- his message, his vision, and his agenda matched his counterparts' at the gathering -- but the Democrat clearly benefited from the fact that he wasn't Donald Trump.
Heather Conley, who served as a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bush/Cheney administration, told Politico, "There is no longer a feeling of complete dread before a NATO or G-7 summit or fearing that the meetings would upend U.S. policy. There was much more energy devoted to managing or mitigating former President Trump before, during and after the summit than the actual summit agenda."
A Washington Post report added that Biden was "greeted with delight" by G-7 leaders "who are relieved that Trump's tantrums will be replaced by Biden's backslapping."
To be sure, Trump's stain has not been completely washed off. Nearly all of the reporting from the summit pointed to lingering skepticism about the health of the United States' political system and ongoing fears that either Trump or someone like him would again rise to power. The Post's report added;
One senior European official described his horror at the Jan. 6 assault by pro-Trump rioters on the U.S. Capitol — and said he had an even worse feeling reading opinion polls since then showing that a substantial portion of Republican voters believe Biden is an illegitimate president, a baseless claim perpetuated by Trump. "Your democracy is in serious trouble," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about an ally.
Or put another way, some of our most prominent allies are relieved to see Biden in the White House, but they're concerned about who and what might follow him.
For now, however, the United States has returned to a position of leadership. Biden said of the gathering that the U.S. is "back in the business of leading the world alongside nations who share our most deeply held values." Fortunately, our G-7 partners agreed with him.