The US risks being superseded by China as the prime global power within decades. For Washington, the idea is appalling

Joe Biden with first lady, Jill Biden, at Dover air force base, Delaware
Joe Biden’s manners should not be mistaken for mildness of purpose; the modest style is deployed in service of a tough message.’ Biden with first lady, Jill Biden, at Dover air force base, Delaware. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Joe Biden crosses the Atlantic this week on a tide of goodwill. After four years of Donald Trump, European leaders are grateful for the mere fact of a US president who believes in democracy and understands diplomacy.

Trump had no concept of historical alliance, strategic partnership or mutual interest. He saw multilateral institutions as conspiracies against US power, which he could not distinguish from his own ego. He heard European talk of a rules-based international order as the contemptible bleating of weakling nations.

Biden’s stated purpose is bolstering that order. In an article published in the Washington Post on the eve of his trip, the president talks about “renewed” and “unwavering” commitment to a transatlantic relationship based on “shared democratic values”.

The itinerary starts in Cornwall with a gathering of G7 leaders. Then comes Brussels for a Nato summit, plus meetings with presidents of the European Council and Commission. Biden intends to orchestrate a surge of western solidarity as mood music ahead of a final stop in Geneva, where he sits down with Vladimir Putin. On that front, a stable chilling of relations will count as progress after the downright weirdness of Trump’s willing bamboozlement by the Kremlin strongman.