UN Hears a Call From Biden for Firmness in Ukraine and a Challenge to American Leadership Aired by Brazil

Biden vows to reverse Trump’s walkout from Unesco.

AP/Susan Walsh
President Biden addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at New York, September 19, 2023. AP/Susan Walsh

As President Biden clings to an American-led globalism, other participants in day one of the annual United Nations gabfest at New York have their own, anti-American ideas about multinationalism. 

Beyond addressing the Ukraine war, the recurring theme of Mr. Biden’s speech at the UN General Assembly was global unity. America “seeks a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable world for all people, because we know our future is bound to yours, and no nation can meet the challenges of today alone,” he said. 

Expanding on that theme, Mr. Biden noted his intention to reverse President Trump’s walkout on the UN’s heritage arm. Last week that body, Unesco, raised the ire of Jews and Israelis by designating Jericho, a city within the Biblical territory of Judea, a Palestinian heritage site.

When it comes to global institutions that count, Mr. Biden stuck with traditional ones, which America has dominated since the early days of the UN in the mid-20th century. “Last month I asked the United States Congress for additional funds to expand World Bank financing by $25 billion, and at the G20, we rallied the major economies of the world to mobilize even more funding,” he said. 

Mr. Biden also vowed to reform the World Trade Organization and other traditional institutions. Almost apologetically, he said he planned to assure that “developing countries have a strong voice and representation at the International Monetary Fund.”

According to UN tradition, Brazil opens the annual debate of the General Assembly, and President Lula da Silva wasted no time before going on the attack against the very institutions that Mr. Biden sought to praise.

The IMF, Mr. da Silva said, created a crisis, and last month at Johannesburg a competitor was born. A group uniting Brazil, Russia, India, Communist China, and South Africa invited Iran and other American adversaries to join in and counterbalance Washington’s global power. 

“The Brics was the result of that crisis” that the global south suffered due to IMF unfairness, Mr. da Silva  said, adding, “We are the force that works toward a fairer system.” The Brazilian left-winger is one of only two heads of state — the other is Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel — who Mr. Biden is scheduled to meet during his two-day New York stay. 

While Mr. Biden promised to “responsibly manage the competition” between America and Communist China, he vowed to confront Russia’s assault against Ukraine. Moscow “alone has the power to end this war immediately,” he said. “Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence.”

Yet, one of the early speakers, President Petro of Colombia, contended that America’s focus on the Ukraine war is hypocritical. “The same reason that they use to defend Ukraine is the same reason to defend Palestine,” the former member of Colombia’s M-19 terrorist group said.

Riffing on the same spirit of multilateralism that underlined Mr. Biden’s speech, Mr. Petro proposed two conferences at the UN, which he said would resolve the Russian-Ukrainian and the Israeli-Palestinian wars. 

Similarly, President Diaz-Canel of Cuba, who banged up traditional grievances inflicted by America on his “small archipelago,” invited the listeners to Havana: “You can all come to Cuba to promote multilateralism and peace.” 

Supporters, including President Ramaphosa of South Africa, highlighted America’s embargo of Cuba and its sanctions on other countries as an impediment to global cooperation.  

Some speakers, in contrast, went out of their way to praise America. “It is too often that Europe forgets that it owes its security to the United States,” President Duda of Poland said, highlighting America’s leading role in winning two World Wars. Without America, “neither Great Britain nor the Soviet Union would survive,” he said. 

In a sign of declaring for the very idea of multilateralism, Prime Minister Sunak of Britain and President Macron of France decided, for the first time in the annual event’s history, to skip the debate. As Chairman Xi of the Chinese Communist Party and Mr. Putin usually forgo the event, Mr. Biden remained the only member of the top five UN powers to attend the general assembly’s debate.

He then went to Midtown for a fundraiser. 

The New York Sun

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