Joe Biden
Joe Biden (Image: AP/Andrew Harnik)

President Joe Biden has been in the news for some embarrassing stumbles on his way up the stairs of Air Force One, but he has been much more surefooted in reasserting US supremacy on the global stage.

And it’s not just China he’s calling out. Russia is firmly back at the top of the enemies list — and allies in the UK and Australia have joined the chorus.

The new occupant of the White House is showing a stark contrast with his Manchurian candidate predecessor. Biden reacted strongly to reports that Russia had tried to interfere in the 2020 election and went so far as to call President Vladimir Putin “a killer”.

Not surprisingly, the Kremlin reacted with outrage and veiled threats claiming relations between the two superpowers were now “very bad”.

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Today, the UK government will publish a major shakeup of defence priorities and Russia is very much in its sights. The big story leaked over the weekend was that SAS soldiers and other special forces units will join MI6 to start disrupting Russian meddling around the world.

And, in classic Cold War rhetoric, ASIO last week revealed it had uncovered a “nest of spies” from Russia. Even though the Russians appeared to have been kicked out of the country late last year, it was a reminder that Russian spies are “still the best equipped and experienced in the world” and Australia is being targeted more.

It was also a clear message that Australia is joining its allies in the US and UK in fighting back against the Russian threat in what some see as a new Cold War. Others point out the old one never really went away.

This rebalancing of superpowers comes at a delicate time for the European Union which is in its most precarious position since the global financial crisis. The absolute botching of the COVID vaccine rollout has not only earned new enemies from Britain to Australia, but has also fractured the fragile European alliance from within.

But Washington is certainly still concerned about China too. This was made clear at the extraordinarily frosty US-China summit in Alaska on Friday. US officials made good on their promise earlier in the week to have Australia’s back, angering Chinese officials by warning against continued economic coercion of American allies.

Back in Canberra, Australian businesses were once again being warned that they were vulnerable to Chinese infiltration. There are reports China is targeting commercial data, particularly to discover how local businesses are getting around the current trade bans.

In the past Australian businesses have tended to ignore such warnings, preferring profit over the national interest, but with a new sheriff in the White House it’s clear the times are changing. Or at least going back to where they were before.

Overnight, we also had a reminder that another foe is still high on the threat list. Iran reportedly threatened the US army post of Fort McNair in the nation’s capital, in what could have been a suicide bombing.

The new president will have to stay on his toes and — in the case of the stairs — hopefully on his feet as well.