US politics in 2021: a democracy under attackComments
A look back at some of the big events that shaped US politics in 2021, both domestically and abroad.
Attack on the heart of democracy
The storming of the Capitol would shake what many regard as a bastion of democracy to its core. As the US Congress met to certify Joe Biden as president, thousands of pro-Trump supporters descended. The outgoing president had alleged voter fraud. The violence that would follow on January 6 left five people dead. An FBI probe into the attack would later result in hundreds of arrests.
With a country still in shock, Joe Biden took his oath of office. His swearing in as the 46th President of the United States saw Kamala Harris also become the first female Vice-President. But the ceremony was tarnished, both by the pandemic and fears of another attack - Biden pleaded for unity.
By means of executive order, Biden fulfilled nearly a third of his electoral promises in his first 100 days, but the president’s ambitious spending plans would soon lead to cracks in his Democratic majority.
"America is back"
In June he made his first official trip abroad with a European tour in which he hammered the message: "America is back".
At the G7 summit in Cornwall he tried to heal the damage done to the transatlantic relationship during the Trump era and he did the same days later at a NATO summit, where he described China as the new great challenge for the military alliance.
The same week in Switzerland Biden held talks with President Vladimir Putin. The summit came only weeks after he had branded the Russian leader "a killer” - sparking a diplomatic dispute with the Kremlin. In Geneva, Biden called for a more predictable relationship between the US and Russia. Putin described the meeting as "constructive".
By September, however, Biden had angered a key ally. The controversial Aukus pact between Australia, the UK and US - arguably aimed at containing China - resulted in a full blown diplomatic crisis with Paris, in the wake of Canberra's decision to cancel a multi-billion euro deal to buy French submarines, preferring US military hardware instead. Apologising to France's President Macron at the G20 in Rome, Biden admitted Washington's handling of the affair had been clumsy.
Meanwhile at the COP 26 in Glasgow, both the US and China - the planet’s biggest CO2 emitters - agreed to do more to tackle the climate emergency. It was a vague agreement that disappointed many. A few days later, Biden held a long virtual meeting with China’s Xi Jinping. But beyond the good words, the two men were wide apart on a host of issues, most notably the future of Taiwan.