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Biden’s leadership faces global test at UN summit


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Welcome to UN Brief, Foreign policeThis year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) context guide, as hundreds of foreign dignitaries and diplomats descend on New York City. Over the next week, we’ll be your daily guides for everything behind the scenes of the so-called Super Bowl for diplomats.

Want a groundbait before you dive? This afternoon, we joined FP Editor-in-Chief Amelia Lester for a conference call with subscribers highlighting next week’s events, from how world leaders are scrambling to tackle climate change to fears. that the UNGA does not become a large-scale event. Log in to the recording here.

Without further ado, here’s what awaits you today: challenges await us for First speech by US President Joe Biden at the General Assembly when a new dispute broke out with France, a roundup of AGNU no shows, and why diplomacy by Zoom don’t cut it anymore.

Welcome to UN Brief, Foreign policeThis year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) context guide as hundreds of foreign dignitaries and diplomats descend on New York City. Over the next week, we’ll be your daily guides for everything behind the scenes of the so-called Super Bowl for diplomats.

Want a groundbait before you dive? This afternoon, we joined FP Editor-in-Chief Amelia Lester for a conference call with subscribers highlighting next week’s events, from how world leaders are scrambling to tackle climate change to fears. that the UNGA does not become a large-scale event. Log in to the recording here.

Without further ado, here’s what awaits you today: challenges await us for First speech by US President Joe Biden at the General Assembly when a new dispute broke out with France, a roundup of AGNU no shows, and why diplomacy by Zoom don’t cut it anymore.

If you would like to receive ONE Brief in your inbox next week, please sign up here.


A “stab in the back” on the eve of the UNGA

As Joe Biden prepares for his first in-person speech to the United Nations General Assembly as President of the United States, a bitter diplomatic row with longtime ally France threatens to upend the House’s efforts Blanche to restore the credibility of the United States on the world stage in the post-Trump era.

On Friday, France announced the recall of its Washington and Canberra ambassadors for the sale of US nuclear submarines to Australia. The extraordinary move marked a rapid escalation of tensions between historic allies and fueled fears in Paris that Washington’s commitment to its traditional European allies was weakening.

The French government rants against Washington’s plans to establish a strategic security partnership with Australia and the UK that includes the exchange of sensitive technology and the sale of US-made nuclear submarines to Australia. The deal, which surprised France, led Australia to forgo a $ 66 billion deal to buy French diesel submarines.

After the deal was announced earlier this week, France’s top national security officials launched an unprecedented offensive against the Biden administration. China, which suspects the deal poses a threat to its security, also denounced the deal.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the action of the Biden administration a “stab in the back” – a bad start to a week of multilateral diplomacy where Washington needs everyone possible allies. “This brutal, one-sided and unpredictable move reminds me a lot of what Trump was doing,” Le Drian said. Info France.


Can Biden still prove that “America is back”?

The transatlantic dispute has undermined Biden’s efforts to use his Tuesday address to the United Nations General Assembly to radically break with the isolationism of the Trump administration. He also hoped to demonstrate his commitment to international cooperation and strengthen his allies on the world’s largest diplomatic arena.

This year’s United Nations General Assembly will feature a less confident United States than it was 31 years ago, when then-US President George HW Bush foreshadowed a new world order as the Soviet Union collapsed and forged an international coalition for -Invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The wars waged by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq have fueled international skepticism about American leadership abroad, tarnished its reputation as a standard-bearer of democracy and human rights, and left the homeland politically divided. The chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that left hundreds of U.S. citizens and thousands of Afghan allies in dire straits has already cast a cloud over Biden’s efforts to press the reset button.

All of this comes as the United States seeks to pivot its foreign policy towards an era of global competition with China, which is causing all kinds of tension within Washington’s national security establishment – and with its allies and his opponents.

It is not all gloomy. Biden needs global support at the UN more than ever before his UNGA speech next Tuesday, writes FP’s Michael Hirsh. The US president has been touched around the world by the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, but he has also “consolidated a lot of credibility over the years as a defender of the UN” as vice president and during of his long career in the Senate.

“There is a lot of discomfort and unhappiness with the way we have handled the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and I think it will hurt us in the short term,” John Negroponte, former United States Ambassador to the Nations United and Assistant Secretary of State for the George W. Bush administration told UN Brief.

“On the other hand, the United States still has the largest economy in the world. We still have the strongest army. And whatever some may say about our commitment or not to multilateralism, we were present when the UN was created, ”said Negroponte. “It’s not something that can be simply erased.”


A cold welcome from New York

The UNGA vaccine blues. The rise of the delta variant, which is now responsible for almost all cases of COVID-19 in New York City, has severely limited the number of dignitaries able to attend the General Assembly and forced the UN to cut back his plans for a series of side events. City officials, including member of the city council Marc Levine, expressed doubts about the risk of foreign diplomats, including potentially unvaccinated people, descending into the city for a week-long summit.

The United States issued a statement urging foreign delegations to stay at home and limit side events to the General Assembly to prevent it from becoming a full-scale event. Some 57 heads of state and government, many of them countries with little access to vaccines, plan to deliver prerecorded video addresses.

But not everyone is listening. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN Secretary-General António Guterres are continuing plans to convene an in-person, closed-door summit at UN headquarters on climate change on Monday. And the UN Security Council has scheduled two in-person meetings next week.


What are you curious about? Let us know, and we’ll try to answer!

Today’s question comes from Robert during our conference call:

Will the Taliban soon be able to replace the current Afghan envoy to the UN?

The short answer: The current Afghan ambassador can keep his seat for now, but it’s too early to know how long that will last. Either way, this is a major issue that US and UN officials are grappling with.

Here’s the longer answer: Under UN rules, if a country’s seat is disputed, a holder keeps it until the nine-country accreditation committee looks into the issue, which is then approved by the General Assembly.

It’s unclear whether the Taliban’s caretaker government is organized enough to rule a country, let alone appoint a candidate UN ambassador anytime soon. Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UN before the fall of the previous government, Ghulam Isaczai, sent a letter to Guterres this week asking him to stay at the country’s headquarters.

This is already a thorny issue for the Burmese junta, which seized power in a coup earlier this year, as we reported this month. It is likely that some countries, including the United States and its Western allies, would oppose a Taliban envoy to the UN, lest it give the militant group more international credibility before they recognize the government. of the Taliban.

The committee could postpone the Afghanistan issue in perpetuity to avoid having to consider whether the Taliban should have a seat in the United Nations. At least for now, Isaczai will retain the Afghan seat even though he really has no government to represent.


Other major participants and absences

Who is on the bridge to speak? Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, Indian President Narendra Modi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

But no-shows are important. French President Emmanuel Macron, a familiar face from previous General Assembly meetings, will make a prerecorded statement from Paris. Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping and new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi are also absent. (Merkel will make a virtual climate statement on Monday.)

Even Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will skip the high-level debate. Diplomats in New York were trying to set up a video link for the Chinese diplomat so he could attend a high-level meeting of the UN’s five veto powers at the Security Council. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to attend this meeting.


Virtual diplomacy is not enough

Yes, there is a lot of talk and “high level virtual dialogues” next week. But the bottom line is that all the real work in the General Assembly is done on the sidelines, even if the podium speeches are seen as the main events. With small delegations, side events and limited bilateral meetings, the United Nations will find it difficult to orchestrate an event as impactful as the former UNGAs.

Even the most cheesy American officials and foreign diplomats we’ve spoken to don’t want to stay glued to their desks throughout a marathon of virtual meetings. “The last thing António Guterres wants is for UNGA to be another Zoom meeting marathon,” one East Asian diplomat told us.

A hybrid UN General Assembly just won’t have the same feel. Richard Gowan, the UN representative for the International Crisis Group, said the event had “a wet firecracker written all over it.”


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