Amid skepticism, Biden promises a new era of global collaboration

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Joe Biden made his debut at the United Nations’ elegant green marble grandstand this week, as the coronavirus infected more than half a million people around the world every day, as wildfires and flooding worsened by climate change ravaging Earth and the United States struggling to avoid another cold war with China. In noble language, the president has attempted to distract the world’s attention from the calamitous end of America’s longest war, in Afghanistan, and a recent break with its longest-serving ally, France. Barely eight months after starting his presidency, Biden is already trying to reset his foreign policy. “I am standing here today for the first time in twenty years with the United States not at war. We’ve turned the page, ”Biden told the Chamber. “As we close this period of relentless warfare, we usher in a new era of relentless diplomacy, of using the power of our development assistance to invest in new ways to uplift people around the world, to renew and to defend democracy. Words were welcome, but there are lingering credibility issues regarding America and the leadership of its new president.

On Tuesday, Biden told the General Assembly the world was at a “historical turning point.”Photograph by Eduardo Munoz / Getty

“Biden has an overwhelming advantage at the UN, which is that he’s not Donald Trump,” Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group told me. “In the United States, we got used to it. But, for leaders who have had to put up with four years of mindless talk, anything Biden says will be a huge improvement. At the same time, Gowan noted, the wave of recent crises meant Biden was not going to receive the heroic welcome he might have expected when he took office, with more foreign policy experience. than any other American president. World leaders already have doubts about how far Biden will go to make international cooperation – rather than America First policies – actually work.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, America’s power and place in the world has been defined primarily by its military deployments, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also by the increasing use of special forces to counter terrorists and other threats in the world. At the UN, Biden tried to define a new post-war peace agenda. “US military might should be our tool of last resort, not our first, and it should not be used as an answer to all the problems we see in the world,” he said during a speech. ‘a half hour. Bombs and bullets, he noted, cannot defend against COVID-19 or its future variants, or alleviate problems created by rising temperatures, devastating storms and deadly famines. Biden stressed that America’s fate depends on the collaboration and success of other nations. “To be of service to our own people,” he said, “we must also engage deeply with the rest of the world. “

This year’s General Assembly summit looks apocalyptic, especially with the fewest delegates in attendance, all masked and spaced out. The cavernous chamber looked like something out of a science fiction movie. The United States had urged delegations to stay at home, lest the deluge of visitors to New York could become a full-scale event. After each head of state spoke, a masked official discreetly wiped the stage and changed the microphone head. Biden warned that the world is at a “turning point in history” – the dawn of a “decisive decade” that “will determine our future.”

Presidents like to present their first year in office as a historic moment or a new era. But this annual summit is particularly sobering. In an opening speech Tuesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres used cataclysmic language to describe the challenges facing the world. “We’re on the brink of an abyss – and we’re headed in the wrong direction,” Guterres said. “Our world has never been so threatened. Or more divided. We are facing the greatest cascade of crises of our life. The world, he said, “must wake up.”

The lingering question is whether leaders will heed his warnings and generate the requisite political will. During the pandemic, the global momentum was sapped and the international muscle withered, as governments on six continents focused on simple survival. Last year’s General Assembly was virtual. This year, top leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping, have chosen to deliver virtual speeches. The normal range of bilateral or group meetings on the sidelines of the UN – where most of the real business takes place – has been greatly reduced.

A major proposal from Biden – which will be presented at a virtual meeting on the pandemic, which he will host from Washington on Wednesday – is to ensure that seventy percent of the 7.8 billion people worldwide are vaccinated before the next General Assembly, in a year. . This is an ambitious and perhaps unrealistic goal, especially since developed countries are already starting to administer a third dose. The World Health Organization reported last week that 5.7 million doses had been administered worldwide, but that seventy-three percent of them went to only ten of the one hundred and eighty. thirteen member states of the United Nations. The iniquity is astounding. “This is a moral accusation against the state of our world,” Guterres said. “It’s obscenity” In Africa, about three percent of the population has been vaccinated. In the United States, by comparison, fifty-five percent of the population has been fully immunized and over two million have already received a third injection. Vaccination rates in much of Europe are even higher.

On climate change, Biden’s challenges are even broader. A new UN report prepared for this year’s General Assembly has warned that by 2030 emissions of the gases that heat the Earth’s climate are expected to increase by more than sixteen percent from 2010 levels. Scientists say emissions should fall by at least a quarter by the end of the decade in order to avoid larger natural disasters. Last week, the United States and the European Union announced their commitment to reduce global methane emissions by 30% over the next nine years. But these are just words, without any binding commitment. And to counter the current trajectory, it will take action from many more countries, especially China. John Kerry, the United States’ special climate envoy, has so far failed to secure any commitments from Beijing, which argues it does not want to have to give in to Washington’s proposals without concessions in favor of its own global agenda. At the UN, Biden announced his intention to double US funding to help developing countries fight climate change and make America “the leader in public climate finance.” He called on other industrialized countries to “put their highest ambitions on the table” at the next United Nations Climate Change Conference in November. But, on Monday, Guterres warned that there is already a “high risk of failure.”

For Biden, the timing of the UN assembly couldn’t have been worse. Numerous NATO the allies are still upset by the brutal and frantic withdrawal from Afghanistan. The final decision was made unilaterally by the Biden administration; the expected time of others NATO nations have hardly been advised to withdraw their Afghan forces, citizens or personnel. Biden’s speech at the UN was also almost overshadowed by the abrupt split with France, which sparked when Biden announced last week that the United States and Britain would help Australia to develop nuclear-powered submarines, undermining a long-standing deal in which France would sell $ 66 billion worth of conventional submarines to Australia. Australia’s first sale of nuclear technology – primarily to build capacity in the Indo-Pacific region, to counter China – has broad strategic implications. But he also burned an ally, again, without warning. President Emmanuel Macron immediately recalled the French Ambassador to Washington, a first in a relationship dating back to France’s crucial military aid during the War of Independence. “This brutal, one-sided and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump was doing,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

For Paris, the quarrel touched the very heart of the normative order which has long been the basis of the Western alliance. In June, Biden and Macron walked down a Cornwall seaside promenade at the G-7 summit, arms entwined, like lovers. Macron tweeted a photo of the two of them: “Now that we’re together, united, determined to make a difference, it’s time to deliver. I’m sure we will, @JoeBiden!” And, at a gala in July, France unveiled a three-meter bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty on the lawn of the French ambassador’s residence in Washington. Le Drian has flown for it. “For more than two centuries, besides -Atlantic, from one shore to another, from one generation to the next, from one ordeal to another, together we are writing a story placed under the sign of freedom and fraternity. including Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Brotherhood not only of arms but also brotherhood of heart.” US officials have tried to call the Australian incident a galley. But, a sign of current tensions, Macron canceled his virtual appearance at the General Assembly, and its Foreign Minister refused to meet Bli nken.


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