By Ricky Browne
Joe Biden has had a few bad weeks, with the shambolic withdrawal from Afghanistan last month, to being accused by long-time ally France of a “stab in the back” due to its new nuclear submarine pact with Australia and the UK.
He has also stumbled on the podium when addressing the media – referring to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as “that fella down under” and avoiding hard questions about Afghanistan – often appearing to be unsure of himself and looking to many like he is heading towards senility.
A growing crisis on the border, where Biden seems to be largely following the strong anti illegal-immigration policies of his predecessor despite claiming otherwise, has also tarnished his image.
While former President Donald Trump openly spoke about his “America First” policy, Biden spoke against that – but his actions in Afghanistan and then with Aukus, have shown that he is quite happy to ignore allies when making decisions for America.
So his speech to the United Nations today was important to try and project an image of being in control, and of being a strong world leader.
The US has always been a lukewarm supporter of the UN, even though it is headquartered in New York, but Biden has always claimed that he is a strong supporter of the organisation.
Biden seemed to be well spoken and coherent during his speech to the UN General Assembly today, speaking about action on climate policy and the pandemic – global issues that affect every country on Earth.
“We’re devoting our resources to fight climate and terrorism” he said. He said the US will double its contribution to tackling the climate change.
US military power must be a “tool of last resort” he said – an oblique reference to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“I believe we must work together as never before” he said.
“We are not seeking a new cold war or a world divided into regid blocks. The US is willing to work with any nation that steps up ,” he said.
He spoke out against Iran and its development of nuclear capability, and of increasing stability on the Korean peninsula.
On terrorism he said that the US was better equipped to handle terrorist attacks than it was 20 years ago on 9/11. But that the main way ahead would be to uplift the lives of people in certain areas. –
He noted how citizens around the world have been crying for” dignity – simple dignity”.
“As leaders it is our duty to answer that call, not to silence it,” he said. That was not the US policy, however, when such protests arose in Cuba over the summer.
“We must redouble our diplomacy” he said. We must seek a future of greater peace and security to all people of the middle east.”
He spoke out in favour of a two state solution for Israel and Palestine. He also spoke out against about civil war in Ethiopia and Yemen – and out against the constant use of rape in war.
The speech wasn’t without its hitches. At one point, he referred to the UN as “this institution – the United States” before then talking about the UN charter. But that slip-up seemed to be largely ignored.
He spoke for equal rights for women and against attacks on racial, ethnic and religious minorities – referring to Xinjiang in China (though he never mentioned China’s name in his speech).
“I am not agnostic about the future we want for the world, “ he said. “The future will belong those who give their people the ability to breathe free, not to those who see to suffocate them with an iron hand.”
“Democracy remains the best tool we have to unleash full human potential”, he said.
“We cannot afford to waste any more time,” Biden said in closing.
In a matter of minutes, Biden and his entourage were out of the UN in New York as he headed back to Washington.
In essence his presentation was more polished than most of his other appearances on the world or national stage – despite the slip-up of confusing the UN for the US .
Biden’s words were on target, in terms of a multilateral approach, leading with other countries and putting aside ‘America First’ – but they always have been. Biden is likely to be measured more by his actions.
One of his first actions will be meet with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House later today.
Whether Biden will continue to turn the screws on the US relationship with the UK by pressuring Johnson on the Northern Ireland situation and continuing to keep the prospect of a Free Trade Agreement on back burner, or whether he will seek to build on the ‘special relationship’ as it has with the new nuclear sub agreement will become clearer by the end of the day.