Joe Biden declared a “new era of relentless diplomacy” in his first speech as president to the UN General Assembly, as he tried to show that the U.S. was turning the page on what he called an “era of relentless war” and focusing on international crises like climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The major cable and broadcast networks covered the speech in New York, with a number of commentators noting the differences between Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, who at time took a more transactional view of longtime U.S. alliances.
“As we close this era of relentless war, we are opening a new era of relentless diplomacy, of using the power of our development aid to invest in new ways of lifting people up around the world, of renewing and defending democracy, of proving that no matter how challenging or how complex the problems we are going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people,” Biden said in his speech.
Biden made several references to ending the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, a pullout that led to the Taliban returning to power in the country. The chaotic nature of the pullout has drawn furor from Republicans and even some criticism from Democrats, while Biden’s poll numbers have slid.
Biden defended the withdrawal decision, as he noted that for the first time in 20 years, the United States was not engaged in a war.
“U.S. military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first,” Biden said. “It should not be seen as our answer to every problem around the world. Indeed, today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed through the force of arms. Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19, or its future variants. To fight this pandemic we need the collective act and political will.”
He said that “we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocks. The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreements in other areas.”