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Vigorous preparation returns as Biden calls on other leaders

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WASHINGTON A new and old ritual takes shape at Biden’s White House, which begins with bulky information packets, guesswork war games, and Oval Office discussions of how to speak to which ally or adversary American.

Twelve times since taking office, President Joe Biden has called a world leader after restoring what was a long-standing White House standard put on hold by Donald Trump: vigorous preparation. No more unnecessary digressions and excessive cajoling or haranguing from other heads of state.

The changes to telephone diplomacy have been both style and substance, as Biden sought to send the message to foreign leaders, many of whom are embittered by Trump’s habit of berating his counterparts and confusing personal interests with US national security with which Biden is determined to reset the US relationship with. the world.

They got the idea that they have to manage alliances really well from the start, said Matthew Goodman, who served on the staff of the White House National Security Council under the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. It’s a central organizing principle as they seek to turn the page on Trump and get alliances back on track. Preparing for appeals is one of them. “

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Biden’s foreign policy will ultimately be judged on results more than form or preparation. But so far his approach has been a marked departure from Trump, who seemed to have better rapport with autocrats like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un than with many of the States’ historic allies. United. The former president has often shied away from talking points over the phone and from the advice his aides have given him for his dialogue with world leaders.

Leaked transcripts of conversations showed that within days of starting his administration, Trump was disposing of diplomatic niceties and harassing Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto against publicly saying that Mexico would never pay for a southern border wall, a signing of the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also complained to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of forcing Trump to endure the most unpleasant appeal “and was worse than me” for detaining refugees on small islands in the off Australia.

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Most notably, the 2019 Republican Presidents’ call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy led to Trump’s impeachment after it was revealed that Trump asked him to do us a favor and investigate Biden’s activities and of his son Hunters in the country.

As was the practice with past administrations, Biden advisers typically prepare the president ahead of calls with a set of basic written information, including summaries of recent developments in the country, a recap of previous interactions with the leader, talking points on the issues to be highlighted. , as well as whether he was asked for notes to help shape the chairpersons response to sensitive issues his counterpart might raise.

Trump’s aides realized early on that the president had little patience for briefing papers or talking points. At first they offered him a six-page pre-brief with attachments before the calls, but it turned out to be too long. So they made a one page version. Trump later received note cards that typically only contained three talking points.

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Sweating the details out of every word of a memo didn’t matter, because communicating the right message on behalf of the United States didn’t matter to the president, said Frances Brown, who has served as a senior adviser. to the National Security Council in Trump and Obama. administrations. For one NSC staff member, this invited a bit of an existential crisis.

Last week Biden called Chinas Xi Jinping for a two hour conversation in which he raised concerns about human rights violations and unfair trade practices. Earlier, during an appeal with Putin, Biden condemned the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and urged Putin to involve his country in a massive campaign of cyberespionage in the United States.

Ahead of the two calls, senior officials in the Biden administration previewed to reporters what the president was planning to say, a move meant to help avoid potential efforts by Beijing and Moscow to control public messages about the conversations.

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Biden’s first call for president went to Canadas Justin Trudeau, the prime minister Trump once denigrated as very dishonest and weak.

For Biden, the conversation with Trudeau was both a difficult conversation and an easy joke. Biden explained his decision to halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a Canada-US project backed by Trudeau. Biden also remembered his first wife’s family ties to Toronto and his own visit to Ottawa in 2016 when Trudeau honored him with a state dinner.

The two leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and two Canadians jailed in China in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior Huawei executive, Canadian officials said.

A senior Canadian official familiar with the call said Biden appeared well prepared for the half-hour conversation and noted that it lasted longer than any call the Prime Minister had with Trump.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has spent years petting and courting Trump, said in an interview with CBS on Face the Nation on Sunday “that his conversation with Biden was fantastic” and that they had spoken about issues like the climate change, NATO, Iran and more.

The White House notably published a official photo of Biden’s meeting at the Oval Office with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and NSC Senior Director of European Affairs Amanda Sloat as he prepared for his recent appeal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

James Carafano, national security analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Biden, in his first round of appeals, was primarily concerned with sending the message that he had turned the page on Trump. But Carafano contends that the new president has largely avoided detailing what this essentially means for U.S. foreign policy.

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He didn’t really go beyond the theme of friends and allies, ”Carafano said.

Biden has made it clear his desire to return to diplomacy following Trump’s withdrawal from the Obama-backed international nuclear deal with Iran.

Around the world, considerable attention is also being paid to countries that are not yet on Biden’s calling list.

The new president has yet to speak with Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had a close relationship with Trump even as the United States and Turkey disagreed on a number of issues, including Syrian policy and the Turkey’s decision to buy advanced anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia. . The latter prompted Washington to expel Turkey from its F-35 stealth fighter program.

Biden on the election campaign called Erdogan an autocrat and, as vice president, was forced to issue a formal apology in 2014 after suggesting that Turkey was playing a role in the rise of the Islamic State group.

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Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, On Wednesday, tweeted a list of 10 countries he said had received calls from Biden. Now is the time to call on the leader of # Israel, the #US ‘closest ally? Danon posted.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said nothing should be read in the lack of appeal so far. He is not an intentional dissident, she said, and promised that an appeal to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would come.

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Gillies reported from Toronto.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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