Biden is flexing his political muscles abroad while Trump’s shadow reappears at home.

A missile explosion in Poland forced an emergency meeting of world leaders and risked deepening the war in Ukraine. And while Biden’s summit with China provided Xi Jinping a temporary thaw in the nascent Cold War, it did little to ease tensions over issues such as Taiwan.

At home, a similar dichotomy was forming. The highly successful midterm elections were to be colored by the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives. This GOP majority, while disappointing in its margin, will hold up Biden’s next two years in office. And Donald Trump, the man Biden believes is a threat to the nation’s very democracy, announced his candidacy to the presidency again.

However, Biden will arrive in Washington better to meet those challenges, buoyed by his trip abroad and the feeling that the midterm elections have provided his administration with the needed political stability..

“America is working alongside our allies and partners to achieve real and meaningful progress around the world,” he said at a news conference in Bali. “And at this critical moment, no country is better positioned to help build the future we want than the United States of America.”

The trip to Asia was arguably the most important diplomatic foray of the Biden presidency because of the twin threats posed by Moscow and Beijing.

Even a week before Biden’s arrival in Bali, US officials believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would also attend the G20. But he backed down in the wake of another humiliating defeat for the Russian army in Ukraine.

Still, Putin loomed large over the measures, especially in the final hours of the G20 on Wednesday after an explosion in Poland. The exact circumstances of the explosion, which killed at least two civilians, were not clear first results He indicated that it was caused by a stray Ukrainian defensive missile. But in the first hours after it happened, it risked escalating the conflict since Poland, as a member of NATO, entered into a mutual defense pact that could lead to further repercussions against Russia. Biden hastily convened some NATO and other world leaders at his hotel in Bali, sitting in the center while they plotted a response.

Biden criticized Russia’s “brutality and brutality” by targeting Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure, declaring it “totally unconscionable”.

Elsewhere at the summit, there was disagreement over how to handle Moscow’s war machine. Unlike the G-7, a group of wealthy democracies that went on par with Biden at their summer conference, the G-20 is more of a mishmash of leaders, including some of Putin’s fellow autocrats like Saudi Arabia and China.

Biden pushed countries further isolate Putin, but he did so as global inflation and slowing economies put new pressures on countries.

Biden’s first stop on his trip was last week’s climate change conference in Egypt, where he reassured allies worried about American leadership on that front. Then the president traveled to Cambodia, buoyed by the news that Democrats had taken control of the Senate, giving him a geopolitical boost as his focus shifted to China.

Biden offered a tough American commitment Southeast Asian nations pledged at the Phnom Penh summit to help stand against China’s growing dominance in the region — without mentioning that country by name. The United States has long derided China’s violation of the rules-based international order — from trade to shipping to intellectual property — and Biden has tried to underscore his administration’s solidarity with a region America often ignores.

The Biden White House aims to prioritize the region, and the president huddled with the leaders of South Korea and Japan to get input on how to approach his summit with Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia.

This meeting is in personThe main event of the trip, it took nearly two years to prepare and Beijing and Washington went through hard negotiations to make it happen. Biden said there was “a simple alternative to face-to-face contact” with Xi as the two men shook hands on Monday against a backdrop of flags. Later, as they sit across from each other at the start of their three-hour meeting, the two men notice their need to find common ground, and the need to show the world that they can improve relations.

Biden said the two men have “acrimonious” differences but vowed to continue talking.

Few tangible achievements were made but at all the meeting was seen as an important step towards de-escalation.

“The world has come to a crossroads [and] Shi said, according to an English translation. The world expects that China and the United States will properly handle the relationship.

Both countries acknowledge that they face challenges posed by global conflicts and economic headwinds. They pledged to restart climate talks and agreed that their senior advisers should resume contacts after months of silence. Both sides pledged that there would be no place for nuclear conflict in the world, including Ukraine.

But while Biden and Xi relied on their personal histories to help defuse the chance of direct conflict, their sharp differences were in plain sight, as they sparred over trade, technological restrictions and human rights, most notably Taiwan.

Biden then declared that he did not believe China would make a move on the island nation “imminent”. But Beijing’s statement after the meeting indicated that Washington should mind its own affairs, declaring that “anyone seeking to separate Taiwan from China will infringe on the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation.”

Biden announced climate change and infrastructure investments at the G-20, but economic concerns await the president when he returns to Washington. Inflation may have subsided a bit but it is still high, and many economic forecasts predict a recession early next year. But Biden has steadfastly denied that it is inevitable and believes voters have rewarded him by keeping Democrats in charge in the Senate.

This would allow him to continue to assert his appointments to the judiciary and government and create a bulwark against some of the more radical Republican opposition. However, House Republicans are likely to block much of Biden’s agenda and could jeopardize aid to Ukraine – something the president has tried to downplay in Indonesia. And while many in the Biden orbit believe Republicans in Congress can serve as useful political foils, a grim resignation has also begun to define how investigations, petty or not, dominate the day-to-day workings of the White House. .

And then there’s Trump, who also looms large.

In a remarkably split screen, Trump announced his candidacy for president at his swanky Mar-a-Lago club at the exact moment Biden, on the other side of the planet, spoke to reporters in Bali about the explosion in Poland.

Standing a world away from Trump, Biden was eventually asked if he had a reaction to his predecessor’s candidacy.

“Not right.”

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