Biden addresses UN General Assembly as some US alliances face tensions

President Biden presented a vision for US foreign policy rooted in global alliances during his first address to the United Nations as Commander-in-Chief, stressing the importance of diplomacy at a time when relations with some US allies are tense.

Mr Biden called for an end to armed conflict after two decades of war in Afghanistan and the Middle East. “As we close this period of relentless warfare, we usher in a new era of relentless diplomacy,” he said, standing in the UN boardroom in front of the iconic serpentinite stone backdrop.

The US president has argued that the biggest problems facing the world – from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change – can only be solved with cooperation between countries with different national interests. The world, he said, is facing a major inflection point in its history.

“Our shared grief is a poignant reminder that our collective future will depend on our ability to recognize our common humanity and act together,” Biden said, referring to the millions of lives lost during the pandemic. He predicted that the next decade “will literally determine our future.”

He encouraged competition between rising powers, but stressed that he “is not looking for a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs”.

“All the great powers of the world have a duty, in my opinion, to carefully manage their relations so that they do not switch from responsible competition to conflict,” said the president.

Mr. Biden, now eight months in his presidency, campaigned to restore US alliances and drew heavily on his foreign policy experience as a former vice president and globe-trotting senator. On his first overseas trip last spring, he asserted that “America is back” on the world stage.

In recent weeks, Biden has come under fire both at home and abroad for the way the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan as well as a drone strike that mistakenly killed civilians Afghans.

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The United States’ relations with France, meanwhile, hit a low point after Australia announced last week that it would cancel a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with France to pursue a deal. similar with the United States and the United Kingdom. France has recalled its ambassadors in Washington and Australia, and the French foreign minister called the deal a “stab in the back”.

In his speech, Biden highlighted a UN Security Council resolution passed this summer that urges the Taliban to provide safe passage for those who wish to leave the country. He called for respect for human rights, including the “right of women and girls to fully use their talents”.

Mr Biden said the United States will continue to defend its interests and fight terrorism, but argued that any military mission should have clear objectives, the consent of the American people, and buy-in from American allies.

“US military might must be our tool of last resort, not our first,” he said.

The Biden administration has worked to shift international attention to Asia and counter China’s global influence. Mr Biden will convene a summit on Friday with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan – an alliance called Quad – and hold one-to-one meetings with the leaders of the countries.

The political focus on the Pacific and Indian Ocean, following previous efforts in this direction by the Trump and Obama administrations, puts the United States at odds with China, a permanent member of the Security Council of the UN which seeks to carve out a major role in United Nations organizations.

Mr Biden did not mention China by name, but the country was the theme of his remarks. The president called for transparent and sustainable investments in global infrastructure, criticizing projects “of poor quality or that fuel corruption” in an unspoken rebuke of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative. Earlier this year, the Group of Seven Rich Nations unveiled a competing global infrastructure program called Build Back Better World.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in an interview this week with The Associated Press, called on Washington to improve what he called its dysfunctional relationship with Beijing, warning of a cold war between the countries.

“We must avoid at all costs a cold war that would be different from the previous one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage,” said Mr Guterres.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States’ ambassador to the UN, told reporters on Friday that relations between the United States and China were “complex, and it goes without saying that there are tensions, but there are areas where we are able to cooperate “. She added that “this does not mean that we ignore areas where we have disputes, such as human rights issues”.

Seeking to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Biden reiterated his interest in returning to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal if Iran is prepared to do the same. And he expressed his support for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

The president also focused on human rights around the world, promising the United States would spend $ 10 billion to end hunger and invest in food systems around the world.

Mr Biden will hold a virtual summit with heads of state and global health officials on the coronavirus on Wednesday. During the event, he is expected to call on world leaders to pledge to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population against Covid-19 within a year, according to a person familiar with the draft goals outlined by the administration. .

The way the United States pulled out of Afghanistan damaged America’s image in the world, but as the WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains, upcoming diplomatic events could allow President Biden to put the indent into context. Photographic illustration: Laura Kammermann

The president is also expected to meet one-on-one with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in the coming days following the public dispute between the two countries.

The annual UN gathering was largely virtual last year, and attendance this year has also been limited, with many heads of state and other senior officials delivering messages via video. US diplomats this year called on countries to limit the size of their delegations.

Heads of state and their staff are supposed to be vaccinated to enter the meeting room. But UN officials won’t enforce the rule, relying instead on the honor system. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who tested positive for Covid-19 in 2020 and said he was not vaccinated, spoke to Mr Biden. The White House said the lectern was cleaned and the microphone head replaced between the speakers.

In his remarks, Biden urged countries to adopt more ambitious national plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to pressure rich countries to commit more money to helping the world by development to move away from fossil fuels.

Mr Biden said the United States would ask Congress to double public and international funding to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change. This is his second such engagement this year. At a White House climate summit in April, Biden said he would double an existing US commitment of around $ 2.8 billion a year. The president’s announcement on Tuesday would bring total annual spending to around $ 11 billion by 2024.

The president said earlier this year that the United States would seek to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The year 2005 is a common benchmark for many. such climate goals.

Mr Guterres warned on Monday that the upcoming climate summit in Glasgow was at “high risk of failure” unless world leaders take tougher measures to contain emissions. “I therefore call on leaders today to do what is necessary for COP26 to be a success and to mark a real turning point,” said Mr Guterres.

Corrections and amplifications
Australia has canceled a diesel submarine deal with France. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the deal was about nuclear submarines. (Corrected September 21)

Write to Andrew Restuccia at [email protected] and Ken Thomas at [email protected]

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