Administration

Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call

President Biden on Saturday committed to strengthening the United States' relationship to the United Kingdom and its other NATO allies in a phone call with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday. 

According to a readout of the call shared by the White House, on the first call with Johnson since Biden's inauguration, the president "conveyed his intention to strengthen the special relationship between our countries and revitalize transatlantic ties, underscoring the critical role of NATO to our collective defense and shared values." 

The White House added that Biden signaled his desire to work closely with Johnson as the U.K. hosts the G-7 and United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this year. 

The phone call also included discussions on the "need for coordination on shared foreign policy priorities, including China, Iran, and Russia." 

Johnson was the first to announce the call on Saturday, tweeting a photo of him on the phone with the president and adding that he looks "forward to deepening the longstanding alliance between our two countries as we drive a green and sustainable recovery from COVID-19." 

Former President Trump was critical of multilateral agreements, especially NATO, and threatened to pull out of the alliance claiming that some members did not pay enough for defense. 

Biden's call with Johnson Saturday follows his conversation Friday with fellow NATO leader, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

In the phone call, which was Biden's first with a foreign leader since taking office, the two agreed to meet next month as Washington and Ottawa seek a reset in relations after four years of tension. 

Canada has historically been the first foreign trip for any new U.S. president.

Biden on his first day in office signaled a desire to return to multilateralism, including through an executive action committing the U.S. to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, which Trump had withdrawn the U.S. from following criticism that it hurt American workers. 

Biden has described the renewed commitment as a down payment on his climate plan, which calls for putting the country on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Biden's call with Johnson comes as both countries battle increasing rates of COVID-19 infections, exacerbated by the new strain first found in the U.K. 

Johnson on Friday announced that there is evidence suggesting the U.K. strain of the coronavirus spreads more quickly and has higher mortality rates, though National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci warned on Saturday that more data is needed to verify these claims.

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