President BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE on Tuesday sought to rally nations behind confronting urgent global challenges like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
He described the world as being at an inflection point that will determine the collective future of all countries.
“This is the clear and urgent choice that we face here at the dawning of what must be a decisive decade for our world. A decade that will quite literally determine our futures,” Biden said in prepared remarks in New York on Tuesday morning. “Whether we choose to fight for our shared future or not will reverberate for generations yet to come.”
Biden spoke about his efforts to rebuild alliances and renew commitments to multilateral organizations and described the recent U.S. military exit from Afghanistan as not a retreat from the world stage but rather a pivot to a new chapter of “relentless diplomacy.”
“Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past, we are fixing our eyes on devoting our resources to the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future,” Biden said. “Ending this pandemic, addressing the climate crisis, managing the shifts in global power dynamics, shaping the rules of the world in vital issues like trade, cyber and emerging technologies, and facing the threat of terrorism as it stands today.”
“Our own success is bound up in others succeeding as well. To deliver for our own people, we also must engage deeply with the rest of the world,” Biden added.
Biden pleaded for collective action to confront COVID-19, which has killed more than 4.7 million people across the globe, using the pandemic as an example of a pressing challenge that cannot be addressed with military force.
“U.S. military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first, and should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19 or its future variants. To fight this pandemic, we need a collective act of science and political will. We need to act now to get shots in arms as fast as possible.”
The speech, which lasted more than 30 minutes and touched on multiple global issues and themes, marked Biden’s first remarks before the annual gathering at the U.N. headquarters in New York since he took office at the start of this year.
The president sought to draw a clear distinction between himself and his predecessor, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE, who rankled allies with his abrupt and unilateral decisions on foreign policy.
Biden said that the U.S. is “back at the table in international forums, especially the United Nations, to focus attention and to spur global action on shared challenges.”
He brought up his earlier efforts to recommit the U.S. to NATO’s collective defense and to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreement.
Despite his effort to turn a page on the Trump era, Biden has himself faced questions from allies as a result of the hasty and chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left thousands of at-risk Afghans stranded in the country. France has separately fumed at the U.S. over a new pact to deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.
Biden insisted Tuesday morning that the U.S. is not seeking “a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks,” a veiled reference to continued tensions between the U.S. and China. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who met with Biden Monday evening, recently urged the U.S. and China to repair their “completely dysfunctional” relationship to avoid a cold war during an interview with The Associated Press.
“The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreements in other areas,” Biden said Tuesday, without mentioning China or any specific country.
But Biden also spent several minutes expressing support for human rights and denouncing countries that trample on the rights of their citizens. He encouraged countries to uphold human rights and push back against repression of minorities, whether it occurs in the Xinjiang province of China or Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
“The future will belong to those who embrace human dignity, not trample it. The future will belong to those who unleash the potential of their people, not those who stifle it. The future will belong to those who give their people the ability to breathe free, not those who seek to suffocate their people with an iron hand,” Biden said. “The authoritarianism of the world may seek to proclaim the end of the age of democracy, but they’re wrong. The truth is, the democratic world is everywhere.”
At the same time, he acknowledged the ongoing political divisions in the United States — evidenced by the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters — but argued that the country could overcome the difficult period.
“While no democracy is perfect, including the United States, we will continue to struggle to live up to the highest ideals to heal our divisions and we face down violence and insurrection. Democracy remains the best tool we have to unleash our full human potential,” Biden said.
Biden opened by speaking about the loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the global “shared grief” is a reminder of common humanity.
He was introduced by Abdulla Shahid, president of the U.N. General Assembly, and his speech followed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is open about his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The two leaders did not cross paths on stage.
Biden said the U.S. is focused in Afghanistan on aid and on renewing and defending democracy, and he briefly spoke about the attack at the Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. service members.
“Those who commit acts of terrorism against us will continue to find a determined enemy in the United States. The world today is not the world of 2001 though, and the United States is not the same country we were when we were attacked on 9/11 20 years ago. Today, we are better equipped to detect and prevent terrorist threats, and we are more resilient in our ability to repel them and to respond,” the president said.
He also touted his administration’s investments in climate change and that his agenda aims to create jobs. He said he will work with Congress to double public international financing to help developing nations tackle climate change.
Updated at 11:25 a.m.