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Biden tries to reassure allies and urges action on climate change, pandemic at UN

Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

President Joe Biden promised “relentless diplomacy” to address global challenges like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic in his first speech at the United Nations on Tuesday.

“Our security, our prosperity and our very freedoms are interconnected, in my view, as never before,” he said. “And so, I believe we must work together as never before.”

Biden described the world as beginning a “decisive decade” and standing “at an inflection point in history,” where the extent of international cooperation will determine how many lives are saved from disease and environmental crises.

The speech was intended to reassure allies of the United States’ commitment to global institutions after former President Trump spent four years sowing frustration with his “America first” approach to foreign policy.

“We’re back at the table in international forums,” Biden said.

However, the speech comes as controversies weaken some of Washington’s key relationships. Biden has faced criticism over his administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of war, and he upset France by pursuing a separate defense agreement with Australia and Britain.

 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the spats don’t mean that Biden isn’t committed to stronger ties.

“Reestablishing alliances doesn’t mean you won’t have disagreements,” she said Monday. “That is not the bar for having an alliance and an important partnership. That has never been, and it’s not currently.”

Biden defended his decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, where the Taliban swiftly regained control of the country.

“U.S. military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first,” he said. “And it should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world.”

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