Biden to Address U.N. at Moment When Some U.S. Alliances Face Strain

Biden to Address U.N. at Moment When Some U.S. Alliances Face Strain

President plans to make case for global cooperation on crucial issues as U.S. relations with some allies are strained

President Biden will outline a U.S. foreign-policy vision rooted in diplomacy and global alliances during his first address to the United Nations as commander-in-chief, calling for a shift away from armed conflict after two decades of war.

At a moment when some U.S. alliances are facing strain, Mr. Biden is expected to make the case that the biggest issues facing the world—from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change—can only be solved with cooperation among countries with varying national interests, according to U.S. officials. He’ll encourage competition among rising powers but make clear that he doesn’t want another Cold War, the officials said.

In addition to the pandemic and climate change, Mr. Biden’s remarks will touch on emerging technologies, investing in global infrastructure and developing rules on trade and economics, one of the officials said.

Mr. Biden, now eight months into his presidency, campaigned on restoring U.S. alliances and leaned heavily on his foreign policy experience as a globe-trotting former vice president and senator. During his first trip abroad last spring, he argued that “America is back” on the world stage.

In recent weeks, Mr. Biden has faced criticism both at home and abroad for how the U.S. withdrew troops from Afghanistan as well as a drone strike that mistakenly killed Afghan civilians.

U.S. relations with France, meanwhile, have hit a low point after Australia announced last week that it would cancel a multibillion-dollar nuclear-submarine deal with France to pursue a similar agreement with the U.S. and the U.K. France recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Australia, and the French foreign minister called the agreement a “stab in the back.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said U.S. alliances remain strong. “Re-establishing alliances does not mean you won’t have disagreements about how to approach any particular issue in the world. That is not the bar for having an alliance, an important partnership,” she told reporters Monday.

The Biden administration has been working to shift international focus to Asia and counter China’s global influence. Mr. Biden will convene a summit Friday with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan—an alliance called the Quad—and hold one-on-one meetings with the countries’ leaders.

The policy emphasis on the Pacific Rim and Indian Ocean, following earlier efforts in that direction by the Trump and Obama administrations, puts the U.S. at odds with China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that is seeking to carve out a major role in U.N. organizations.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, in an interview this week with the Associated Press, called on Washington to improve what he called its dysfunctional relationship with Beijing, warning of a cold war between the countries.

“We need to avoid at all cost a cold war that would be different from the past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage,” Mr. Guterres said.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters Friday that the U.S. relationship with China is “complex, and it goes without saying that there are tensions, but there are areas where we are able to cooperate.” She added that “it does not mean that we ignore the areas where we have contentions, such as issues of human rights.”

Mr. Biden will hold a virtual summit Wednesday with heads of state and global health officials on the coronavirus. During the event, he is expected to call on world leaders to commit to vaccinating 70% of the world’s population against Covid-19 within a year, according to a person familiar with draft targets outlined by the administration.

The president is also scheduled to hold a one-on-one meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron in the coming days following the public dispute between the two countries.

The annual U.N. gathering was largely virtual last year, and attendance this year has also been limited, with many heads of state and other top officials delivering messages by video. U.S. diplomats this year asked countries to limit the size of their delegations.

Heads of state and their aides are supposed to be vaccinated to enter the assembly hall and approach the iconic podium with its serpentinite stone backdrop. But U.N. officials won’t be enforcing the rule, instead relying on the “honor system.” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who tested positive for Covid-19 in 2020 and has said he isn’t vaccinated, is set to speak first on Tuesday.

In his own remarks, Mr. Biden is expected to encourage countries to embrace more ambitious national plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and press wealthy nations to commit more money to help the developing world shift away from fossil fuels. U.S. officials said Mr. Biden might make a new announcement on climate financing during the speech.

The president said earlier this year that the U.S. would seek to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions 50% to 52% from 2005 levels by 2030. The year 2005 is a common baseline for such climate targets.

Mr. Guterres warned Monday that the coming climate summit in Glasgow runs a “high risk of failure” unless world leaders take stronger measures to stem emissions. “So today I ask leaders to do what is needed to make sure COP26 is a success and that it marks a true turning point,” Guterres said.

—William Mauldin and Timothy Puko contributed to this article.

By Andrew Restuccia and Ken Thomas

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