As world leaders gather in New York for a week each year for the United Nations General Assembly, major international issues appear to be presented side by side for Americans to view up close. This year, here in the United States, the spectacle and related developments have left most rational observers more shocked than moved.
On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke at a climate conference said The environmental challenges facing the planet have “opened the gates of hell.”
In the troubling week, Republicans in Congress also decided to cut future funding to stop Russian aggression in Ukraine. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman cheered on US television about his $2 billion investment in Jared Kushner and his embrace Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mocked the benefits of “sportswashing” and closed the week with one of the world’s leading supporters of anti-Semites, Elon Musk to announce a “strategic partnership” with the Syrian butcher Bashar al Assad.
Even in a week full of troubling news, perhaps the most ominous development of the week was perhaps further insight into the dangerously confused psyche of the man who, according to some polls, could well be the next president of the United States: Donald Trump.
These appeared in an extraordinary article 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 would start a nuclear conflagration and who celebrated and defended war criminals while ridiculing wounded veterans. It also reminded readers that even Trump’s senior advisers believe that if he is re-elected, he will jail any military, defense and other leaders who would put the Constitution above loyalty to Trump.
The watching world was reminded of how far the US had come since the days when Trump was first president, and how far behind we could fall more broadly if he were re-elected.
One of the few truly positive events surrounding the UN meeting was that of President Biden speech before the General Assembly reminded observers of the benefits of having a leader who has extensive experience in international affairs, is committed to the rule of law worldwide and is a deeply moral person.
Biden called for support for peace and Ukraine and made (once again) compelling arguments for why the struggle between democracy and autocracy remains at the heart of U.S. foreign policy.
Biden also welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife to the White House later in the week, a less ambiguous embrace than that of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said Congress had not had enough time to extend the courtesy to Zelensky. to address its members.
In fact, the speaker was so intimidated by the pro-Putin wing of the Republican Party in name only that he didn’t even provide a convention hall to host Zelensky’s big presentation at the Capitol.
Combined with a right wing’s nihilistic fiscal games that will likely result in the U.S. government shutting down by the end of the month and the prospect of a Trump presidency in perhaps 18 months, Zelensky must have found aspects of his visit to Washington regarding .
But among the week’s more positive developments, reports emerged Friday that the Biden administration may finally be ready to provide Ukraine with a type of weapon it has been most desperate for: the ATACMS long-range tactical missile systems known as the Army’s Long-Range Missile Systems .
“Biden called for support for peace and Ukraine and made (once again) compelling arguments for why the struggle between democracy and autocracy remains at the heart of U.S. foreign policy.”
The Washington Post reported that the US was close to authorizing the release of a cluster munition version of the weapons that could help destroy targets up to 300 kilometers away. A Wall Street Journal According to the report, Biden told Zelensky during his visit that he would initially provide a small number of the weapons.
The delays so far in the decision to equip Ukrainians with ATACMS have been frustrating not only for many in Ukraine, but also for many Americans national security experts. Movement on this front is welcome and another sign that the Biden team is trying to advance U.S. national security interests even if MAGA Republicans are not.
More startling (at least to me) than the caution the Biden administration is using in releasing key advanced weapons systems to defeat Russia is the apparent willingness expressed again this week for so-called U.S.-brokered “normalization.” to move forward. Deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Not that peace in the region or “normalization” is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. The question is whether the deal in question would actually achieve or advance any of these goals.
As I watched the Saudi and Israeli leaders in action this week, it became clear once again that neither can be trusted, as both pursue individual agendas that do not serve the long-term interests of such normalization – those of the United States or those of the key group The Palestinians are likely to be affected by such an agreement. Israeli diplomats scoffed at the possibilities of an early two-state solution but said they would agree to “improving” conditions for the Palestinians. The Saudis mentioned the Palestinians in passing, but it is clear that they are seeking the deal to gain military and civilian nuclear support from the US
Keep in mind, however, that the Saudis are driving up oil prices in a way that benefits themselves and Russia, but hurts the US and will likely negatively impact President Biden’s re-election campaign. And note also MBS’s claim that they would seek a nuclear weapon of their own if Iran developed one. Finally, don’t discount Netanyahu’s continued attacks on an independent judiciary this week, even as he promised Biden he would do his best when it comes to upholding Israel’s democratic institutions.
If such a deal ever comes to fruition, it will surely end in tears with two such unreliable – indeed, dangerous – people as clients and guarantors.
It might be a good long-term goal, but what’s the rush? Perhaps it would make more sense to wait and see whether Netanyahu will be Israel’s prime minister any longer and who might succeed him, and perhaps to see whether MBS wants to weaken the US economy next year or deepen his flirtation with China.
Closer to home at the United Nations, events were, frankly, not much more encouraging.
Climate Week saw serious talk but not much action, even in a year when the impact of extreme weather on the planet has never been clearer. The structure of the United Nations – particularly Russia’s veto power on the Security Council – makes it impossible for the group to grapple with the fact that Russia currently poses the greatest threat to global stability. Zelensky, in his Address to the UNnoted this problem and then said: “We should recognize that the United Nations is at an impasse on issues of aggression.” Humanity no longer pins its hopes on the UN when it comes to defending the sovereign borders of nations .”
Unfortunately, unable to address the world’s biggest problems, the United Nations has become something of a COMICON of international affairs, with diplomatic cosplay but far too little real substance.
Perhaps that’s 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. (Although Putin, who is wanted internationally as a war criminal and is therefore a likely target for arrest whenever he leaves Russia, admittedly may have had other reasons for staying in his bunker and drinking only the borscht that appealed to him food taster.)
Still, for at least another year, UNGA Week has served as a catalyst to bring to the forefront many of the critical global issues that are not receiving enough attention from Americans and to look up close at the strengths of leaders like Biden and Zelensky and others reveal weaknesses of people like MBS, Netanyahu, Trump and the Putin faction in the Republican Party.