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Europe Braces for Life After Biden

Joe Biden
President Biden. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
July 5, 2022

Last week was a big one in the world of foreign policy. It began with the Group of Seven meeting in the Bavarian Alps, during which President Joe Biden, along with other G7 leaders, announced a $600 billion global infrastructure initiative to counter China’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative. (If you can get infrastructure done at home, why not try it abroad, too, right?) The week then moved on to the Brussels Forum, hosted by the German Marshall Fund, where think tankers, politicians from the U.S. and Europe, and journalists mingled and discussed the most pressing issue for the transatlantic alliance: the war in Ukraine. Events finally wrapped up in Madrid, where NATO was holding a summit, during which the alliance released its 2022 “strategic concept,” a decennial policy document outlining its political concerns and military vision. 

These kinds of events were once a regular feature of life for anyone who works in the fields of national security and foreign policy, a constant loop of flights and conferences and schmoozing over coffee on the sidelines of this or that summit. These forums, incidentally, are one of the primary ways that everyone in the foreign policy establishment, from journalists to policy makers, has gotten to know each other over the years: bouncing from one event to another, sharing drinks, being introduced at dinners after the panels wrap up for the day, and so forth. Few people are actually there to listen to what’s being said on the stage, content that tends to be so polished that your mind slips off the words when it tries to grab a hold of them. People go to make new connections, to reconnect over lunch, find new sources, plant and develop new ideas or glean insights into the national security issue du jour. This may sound a bit like the well-oiled thought-leadership circuit that exists in the hedge fund industry, pharmaceuticals, or sales, but the foreign policy world, especially us transatlantic types, comprises a very small circle. So these conferences are, at least in my opinion, both extremely useful and extremely fun.