For one week each year, as world leaders gather in New York for the United Nations At General Assembly meetings, the biggest stories in international affairs seem to be on display, side by side, for Americans to see up close. This year, the spectacle and related events here in the United States had to leave most rational observers more shocked than moved.
Speaking at a climate conference on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying The environmental challenges facing the planet had “opened the gates of hell.”
The disturbing week also saw congressional Republicans move to cut future funding to help stop Russian aggression in Ukraine. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bragging on American television about his $2 billion investment in Jared Kushner and his encompass of the benefits of “sports wash”, the prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu snuggling with one of the The main enablers of anti-Semites in the world., Elon Muskand China ended the week with announcing a “strategic partnership” with the Syrian butcher Bashar al Assad.
Meanwhile, even in a week so full of troubling news, perhaps the most sinister development of the week has been a greater understanding of the dangerously disturbed psyche of the man who, according to some polls, could very well be the next president of the United States, Donald Trump.
These appeared in an exceptional article in The Atlantic by its editor Jeffrey Goldberg who profiled former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. The piece depicted a president (Trump) whose generals feared he might trigger a nuclear conflagration, and who celebrated and defended war criminals while ridiculing wounded veterans. Also reminded readers that even Trump’s top advisers feel that, if re-elected, he would jail any military, defense and other leaders who put the Constitution before loyalty to Trump.
The watching world was reminded of how far America had come since the days when Trump was the first president and, by extension, how far we could fall if he were re-elected.
In one of the few truly positive events associated with the UN meeting, President Biden’s decision speech to the General Assembly reminded observers of the benefits of having a leader with deep experience in international affairs, committed to the rule of law around the world and a deeply moral man.
Biden called for support for peace, support for Ukraine, and defended (once again) why the battle between democracy and autocracy remained at the center of US foreign policy.
Biden also welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife to the White House later that week, a less equivocal embrace than the one offered by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said Congress did not had enough time to offer Zelensky the opportunity to address its members. .
In fact, the nominal speaker was so intimidated by the pro-Putin wing of the Republican Party that he did not even offer a room in Congress to host Zelensky’s important presentation on Capitol Hill.
Combined with the nihilistic budget games being played by a right that will likely result in a shutdown of the US government at the end of the month and the prospect of a Trump presidency in perhaps a year and a half, Zelensky must have found aspects of his visit to Washington in relation to.
That said, in another of the week’s more positive developments, reports began to emerge on Friday that the Biden administration may finally be willing to provide Ukraine with a type of weapon it has most urgently sought: tactical missile systems from the long-range army known as ATTACKS.
“Biden called for support for peace, support for Ukraine, and defended (once again) why the battle between democracy and autocracy remained at the center of US foreign policy.“
Washington Post reported that the United States was close to approving the launch of a version of the cluster munition weapon that could help it destroy targets up to 190 miles away. TO Wall Street Journal The report said Biden had told Zelensky during his visit that he would provide a small amount of weapons as a start and could provide more in the future.
The delays, so far, in the decision to provide ATACMS to Ukrainians have been frustrating not only for many in Ukraine but also for a large number of Americans. national security experts. The moves on that front are welcome and another sign that the Biden team seeks to advance America’s national security interests, even if MAGA Republicans do not.
More disconcerting (at least to me) than the caution employed by the Biden administration in launching key advanced weapons systems to help defeat Russia has been the apparent eagerness, shown again this week, to move forward with so-called “normalization” mediated by USA. Agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is not that peace in the region or “normalization” are bad things. Quite the opposite. The question is whether the agreement in question would actually produce or promote any of those objectives.
Watching the Saudi and Israeli leaders in action this week, it became clear once again that neither is trustworthy, as both have individual agendas that do not serve the long-term interests of such normalization: those of the United States. United or those of the key group. The Palestinians are the countries most likely to be affected by such an agreement. Israeli diplomats were dismissive of the prospects for a two-state solution in the short term but said they would agree to “improve” conditions for the Palestinians. The Saudis mentioned the Palestinians in passing, but it is clear that they seek the agreement to obtain military and civil nuclear support from the United States.
But keep in mind that the Saudis are raising oil prices in ways that benefit them and Russia, but harm the United States and will likely negatively affect President Biden’s re-election campaign. And also note MBS’s claim that they would pursue their own nuclear weapon if Iran developed one. Finally, let’s not discount Netanyahu’s continued attacks this week against an independent judiciary, even as he promised Biden to be on his best behavior when it comes to preserving Israeli democratic institutions.
Such a deal, if it ever comes to fruition, will surely end in tears with two such unreliable people (indeed, two such dangerous people) as its principals and guarantors.
It may be a good long-term goal, but what’s the rush? Perhaps it would make more sense to wait to see if Netanyahu is even Israel’s prime minister much longer and who might succeed him, and perhaps wait to see if MBS intends to undermine the American economy next year or deepen his flirtation with China.
Closer to the UN, events, frankly, were not much more encouraging.
Climate week included serious talk but not much action, even in a year when the effects of extreme weather on the planet have never been clearer. The structure of the UN – particularly Russia’s veto power in the Security Council – makes the group powerless to address the fact that Russia is, at the moment, the biggest threat to global stability. Zelensky, in his speech before the UN, pointed out this problem and then said: “We must recognize that the UN is at an impasse on aggression. “Humanity no longer places its hopes in the UN when it comes to the defense of the sovereign borders of nations.”
Unable to address the world’s biggest problems, the UN has unfortunately become something like the COMICON of international affairs, with diplomatic disguises but little of real substance.
Perhaps that is why, apart from Biden, none of the other five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Russia, China, France and Britain) even bothered to attend this year’s meetings. (Though, admittedly, Putin, wanted internationally as a war criminal and therefore a likely target for arrest every time he sets foot outside Russia, may have had other reasons for staying in his bunker and drinking only the borscht he has been approved). of the food tasters of him.)
However, for at least another year, United Nations General Assembly Week has served as a catalyst to shine a light on many of the critical global issues that do not receive enough attention from Americans and to reveal up close the strengths of leaders like Biden and Zelensky and the weaknesses of those like MBS, Netanyahu, Trump and Putin’s group in the Republican Party.