There will be no hands to shake or backs to slap, no way to look a foreign leader in the eye. The small human moments that define statecraft will be reduced to images on a screen.
President Joe Biden, a most hands-on politician, this week will host a major climate summit with dozens of world leaders — all of them stuck on Zoom.
Biden has made clear that he wants to reassert U.S. leadership on the world stage, including on climate change, after four tumultuous, often inward-looking years of President Donald Trump. But as much as the White House staff has tried to dress up the remote meetings he has held so far, while eyeing the climate summit Thursday and Friday as an important moment, the president has made no secret of how much he misses diplomacy with a more personal touch.
“There’s no substitute for face-to-face discussions,” Biden said Friday as he welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House for his first in-person world leader meeting.