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5 things to watch for Biden’s G-7 trip to Italy

President Biden leaves for Italy on Wednesday for his second major international engagement this month, hoping to highlight his leadership on the world stage amid a tough reelection battle.

The annual Group of Seven (G-7) summit is expected to involve conversations about Ukraine’s war against Russia, Israel’s war in Gaza, and other issues like the global economy and climate change. 

The president is expected to put the differences between his partnership with allies and former President Trump’s “America First” agenda in the spotlight at a time when European allies deal with a fresh blow by far-right leaders gaining influence in their own countries.

Here are five things to watch for Biden’s trip to the G-7.

Biden trip coincides with far-right election wins

The president heads to Europe immediately after elections in several countries in which right-leaning politicians made gains, putting centrist leaders on their heels and raising questions about the future of issues like Ukraine aid.

The White House responded to the election by saying it respects democracy around the world, reiterating aspects of a speech Biden gave last week in Normandy during the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

“More critically, we respect our allies and partners across the continent of Europe. And we have every confidence that regardless of who gets what seat in the EU Parliament that we’re going to be able to continue to work with all of our allies and partners,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said.

Biden focused his speeches in France last week on the importance of alliances and promoting and strengthening democracy. In the days since, Europe has seen a surge in far-right leaders making gains in elections at the same time Biden’s opponent in November, Trump, continues to push an “America First” vision.

French President Emmanuel Macron called snap national elections after his pro-European centrist party demonstrated a weaker return in European parliamentary elections compared to far-right parties on Sunday. Macron announced the move shortly after hosting Biden for a high-profile state visit after Normany in Paris.

Germany’s conservative opposition party also garnered more votes for the European parliament compared to the center left party of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Kirby added in response to the results that “the president will work with the democratically elected leaders of France, no matter who they are.”

Fraught conflict in the Middle East

The summit, which spans from Thursday to Saturday, comes at a fraught moment when it comes to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

Israeli forces on Sunday freed four hostages being held by Hamas, but the raid killed more than 200 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday approved a resolution sponsored by the United States calling for an immediate, temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Biden announced the proposal last month in his clearest indication yet that he’s ready for the war to end, declaring at the time that Israel has degraded Hamas to the point that it would not be able to carry out another Oct. 7 attack.

But, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will not agree to a permanent cease-fire until all the hostages are released, and that Hamas is stripped of its ability to threaten Israel militarily and that it does not govern the Gaza Strip.

Kirby said Tuesday the U.S. had received Hamas’ reply to the cease-fire proposal and was still evaluating it.

Biden is likely to hear from his European allies on the matter, as Israel’s place on the world stage continues to take a hit as the war drags on given the tens of thousands of people who have died in Gaza since the start of the war in October.

A second Zelensky meeting

Biden is expected to meet in Italy with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, marking the second time in a week the two men have met while Biden is abroad. The two previously sat down in Normandy during D-Day anniversary proceedings.

“At the G-7 meeting later this week, our commitment to Ukraine will continue to be right up front and clear,” Kirby told reporters. “We will take bolster steps to show Mr. Putin that time is not on his side and he cannot outlast us as we support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”

The president is skipping a Ukraine peace summit being held Saturday in Switzerland to return home for a major fundraiser in California. Vice President Harris will attend in his place.

Another major element of G-7 members demonstrating their commitment to Ukraine at the summit will be to come to a consensus on seizing frozen Russian assets to support Ukraine financially.

G-7 members froze about $268 billion in Russian assets after the invasion in 2022 and the U.S.-led proposal reportedly calls for countries to use the profits generated on the frozen assets – about $2.6 to $3.6 billion a year – to pay back a $50 billion loan to provide Ukraine immediately. 

Biden and Zelensky will participate in a news conference after their meeting and the U.S. is expected to announce new sanctions and export control actions against Russia.

Biden has made a point during each of his international trips to highlight the unified front the U.S. and its allies have shown in supporting Ukraine.

Congress approved roughly $61 billion in additional aid for Ukraine after a months-long standoff, giving Biden a legislative win and the ability to tout continued U.S. leadership in supporting Kyiv. 

But Republicans are unlikely to go for any additional aid this year, and the prospect of Trump returning to the White House threatens the prospect of U.S. support continuing beyond 2024, which could undermine Biden’s pleas for allies to keep providing aid to Ukraine.

Global economy improving, powered by US

Biden enters the G-7 summit with good news on the global economic front – the world economy is stabilizing and the U.S. is powering it.

The World Bank’s economic outlook released Tuesday credited a strong U.S. economy with bolstering the prospects for the global economy.

 “Growth has remained buoyant in the teeth of the fiercest monetary policy tightening in four decades. U.S. dynamism, in fact, is one reason the global economy enjoys some upside potential over the next two years,” the organization wrote.

 The G-7 includes the world’s most advanced economies and they are expected to discuss the improving global economy. Any praise for the U.S.’s hand in strengthening the World Bank’s outlook for the international community would be significant for Biden ahead of November’s election.

Biden will host a side event at the G-7 to promote global infrastructures and investments, the White House outlined.

“We will continue to offer a path to help countries overcome unsustainable debt burdens, to boost the World Bank’s lending firepower, to mobilize additional capital for high standard infrastructure investments and to make new commitments on food and health security,” Kirby said.

Domestic issues facing Biden

Biden is set to leave for Italy the day after his son, Hunter Biden, was found guilty on all three counts in his gun trial in Wilmington, Del. Biden unexpectedly traveled to Wilmington on Tuesday after the verdict and spent the night at his Delaware home before his trip. 

The president and White House are bracing for the fallout from the younger Biden’s guilty verdict and the sentencing. Biden on Tuesday released a statement saying he would respect the judicial process after the verdict and reiteraed his support for his son.

The president also faces backlash at home over domestic policies, including his immigration executive order announced last week that would restrict asylum protections for those who cross between ports of entry if average daily crossings exceed 2,500. 

Democrats and immigrant rights groups have blasted the order as too restrictive while Biden prepares for Republicans to use the influx of migrants at the border against Biden on the campaign trail.

And the international trip comes just two weeks before Biden is scheduled to debate Trump. Biden will reportedly spend time at Camp David preparing for the June 27 showdown.

 Laura Kelly contributed to this report.

Source: The Hill

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