President Biden finds himself under intense scrutiny from world leaders who don’t see many differences between him and his predecessor, former President Trump.
Although Mr. Biden has sought to differentiate himself from Mr. Trump by promoting multilateralism, world leaders remain skeptical. A French politician last week even declared there was no difference between the two men.
Skepticism from allies, and Mr. Biden’s need to defend his botched Afghanistan exit, are among the reasons his speech Tuesday before the United Nations General Assembly was so highly anticipated.
Here are five takeaways:
The president is still defensive about the Afghanistan pullout
Mr. Biden sought to turn the page from his widely panned Afghanistan withdrawal by pivoting as a step toward cooperation among world leaders.
He told the audience that leaving Afghanistan has created a “new era of relentless diplomacy.”
It’s unclear if world leaders will buy this attempt to reposition the Afghan withdrawal as a move to usher in diplomacy. Criticism from NATO allies of the chaotic exit ranged from “shameful” to “catastrophic error in judgment.”
He’s convinced that not being Trump is enough
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week lashed out at Mr. Biden, saying the president’s “unilateral, brutal, and unpredictable” decision to undermine France’s submarine pact with Australia resembles something Mr. Trump would do.
Mr. Biden tried to draw distinctions between himself and his predecessor, ticking off all the “cool kids” clubs that the U.S. has rejoined since he became president.
He noted that the U.S. re-engaged with the World Health Organization, rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, and intends to regain its position on the U.N. Human Rights Council — all of which the U.S. withdrew from under Mr. Trump.
Biden wants the U.S. to foot the bill for global problems
As if spending nearly $4 trillion on social safety-net projects at home isn’t enough, Mr. Biden vowed to commit nearly $130 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds to help other nations solve their problems.
He pledged to spend $100 billion to help developing countries combat climate change. He also vowed to work with Congress to double that amount.
Mr. Biden also announced that the U.S. will commit $10 billion to end hunger around the globe.
He also said the U.S. had spent more than $15 billion to ship COVID-19 vaccines to developing nations.
Biden considers himself a peacenik
Mr. Biden hammered home that war is a thing of the past, calling for diplomatic negotiations to replace armed conflict. He boasted that the U.S. is no longer at war for the first time in 20 years, saying those resources should be allocated to fighting COVID-19, climate change, and human rights abuses.
The president said “bombs and bullets” cannot defend against the challenges facing the global community.
Biden is a little timid about calling out the big boys
Without mentioning China or Russia by name, Mr. Biden said the U.S. isn’t looking to restart a Cold War-type conflict with other nations. Instead, he called for the U.S. to stand up to international bullies through its “values and strength.”
It was the second time since Mr. Biden arrived in New York that he emphasized the U.S. isn’t looking to reignite a cold war by taking on China. He made similar remarks Monday night in his meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.