In their first meeting, President Joe Biden and Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson sought to redefine the Western alliance and sign a new “Atlantic Charter” — 80 years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill first put pen to paper.
“It was a statement of first principles, a promise that the United Kingdom and the United States would meet the challenges of their age and that we’d meet it together,” Biden declared. “Today, we build on that commitment, with a revitalized Atlantic Charter, updated to reaffirm that promise while speaking directly to the key challenges of this century.”
The new charter is a 604-word declaration that updates the language of the original charter to emerging present-day threats such as cyber attacks, the climate crisis, and the Covid-19 pandemic, while reaffirming the friendship between the two nations and their commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The original charter, signed aboard warships anchored at Placentia Bay off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, on August 14, 1941, was an ideological plan that sought to enforce the main tenets of liberalism: the restoration of sovereign rights, self-government, self-determination, and economic advancement through free trade.
Drafted a little more than three months before the U.S. entry into World War II, the Atlantic Charter marked a certain willingness on the part of the Americans to become further involved in the conflict. In turn, the document effectively nullified British imperialistic domination. Although a great proponent of imperialism and the might of the Empire, Churchill understood clearly that the Allied plan of a long-war strategy was impossible without the economic might of the Americans. The British Empire had to shrink in order to survive.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Americans were waking up to the threat posed by the Germans, and subsequently the Japanese, and began building up their military and naval power.
The latest meeting between the two Allies was hosted in a seaside resort in Cornwall, England, and meant to update what Biden’s aides described as a “musty” document.
“Where the original charter contemplated the ‘final destruction of the Nazi tyranny’ and called for freedom to ‘traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance,’ the new version focused on the ‘climate crisis’ and the need to ‘protect biodiversity,’” writes the Times. “It is sprinkled with references to ‘emerging technologies,’ ‘cyberspace’ and ‘sustainable global development.’”
Yet throughout the meeting, Johnson continued to pay particular homage to the former wartime leaders, telling reporters, “This was the beginning of the alliance, and of NATO.”
From Cornwall, Biden and Johnson made it clear that they intend to brush off the “mustiness” and strengthen the document that originally helped to cement the “special relationship” between the two nations.