Biden aims to assert American leadership abroad at the UN-G20 climate summit

Biden aims to assert American leadership abroad at the UN-G20 climate summit

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

That’s the story President Joe Biden speaks at almost every opportunity: last year, meeting his new colleagues at his first international summit, he proudly informed them: “America is back.”

“How long?” one of them asked.

As Biden embarks on a weeklong trip around the world this week, the question still resonates.

“They are very concerned that we are still the open democracy that we have been and that we have rules and institutions are important,” Biden said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Biden hopes his stops at a climate meeting here on the Red Sea, a gathering of Southeast Asian nations in Cambodia and a high-level Group of 20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali will reaffirm American leadership in the areas former President Donald Trump either ignored or actively avoided.

“If the United States were to, quote, withdraw from the world tomorrow, many things would change around the world. A lot of things would change,” Biden said ahead of his trip.

He and his advisers believe they are entering the series of high-stakes meetings with a strong case that his version of the US role in the world will endure. He defied historical and political obstacles in this year’s midterm elections, while many of Trump’s handpicked candidates lost. And over the past year, he secured passage for a major climate investment and rallied the world behind efforts to support Ukraine and isolate Russia.

Still, concerns remain among America’s allies about the future of America’s commitments—to Ukraine, the fight against climate change, treaty partners and, perhaps most pressingly, the maintenance of democratic norms. Foreign diplomats have been watching the midterm political season closely, looking for clues about how the American electorate has rated Biden’s first two years in office and reporting to their capitals about voter discontent that could fuel Trump’s return to office.

Republicans appeared to be headed for control of the House of Representatives from Wednesday evening. And Trump is preparing a third presidential bid, which will potentially be announced while Biden is on the opposite side of the planet.

White House aides have expressed no concern about the potential split screen, believing that foreign policy is one of the president’s strengths, especially compared to Trump’s chaotic style of diplomacy.

“We just have to show that he’s not going to take over,” Biden said Wednesday. “If he runs, taking care that, under the legitimate efforts of our Constitution, he does not become the next president again.”

Presidents have often turned to foreign policy, where they can act with relatively few congressional constraints, in moments of domestic political turmoil. President Barack Obama launched a similar tour of Asia after his self-described “chelation” in the 2010 midterms.

Four key global threats will loom over Biden’s trip: Russia’s war in Ukraine, escalating tensions with China, the existential problem of climate change and the potential for a global recession in the coming months. Other flashpoints, such as North Korea’s rapidly accelerating provocations and uncertainty over Iran’s nuclear program, will also factor in.

Of these, the defense of Ukraine and the fight against climate change could be most affected by the results of this week’s elections.

At the G20 summit, Biden hopes to rally leaders from the world’s developed economies behind his 10-month effort to isolate and punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. He does not plan to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will not attend the meeting in person and is considering whether to participate virtually.

However, the global economic shocks tested international resolve for the pressure campaign, and world leaders worked with varying degrees of intensity to find a diplomatic end to the conflict.

Some House Republicans who align with Trump have called for cuts in funding to Ukraine, even as other GOP defense hawks have vowed not to abandon the country amid a war with Russia.

House Republican Leader McCarthy, in an interview with CNN this week, sought to reaffirm his support for Ukraine, saying they would not automatically rubber-stamp any additional aid requests.

“I’m very supportive of Ukraine,” McCarthy said. “I think there has to be accountability in the future. … You always need, not a blank check, but make sure the resources go where they are needed. And make sure that Congress and the Senate have an opportunity to discuss it openly.”

Biden arrives at the United Nations climate summit in Egypt after signing the largest US investment in the fight against climate change ever, a dramatic departure from previous international meetings – including last year’s gathering in Scotland – where US carbon reduction commitments were not backed by law. .

“We’ve seen the United States go from a global laggard to a global leader in less than 18 months,” a senior administration official said this week.

The $375 billion pledge will give Biden leverage as he works to convince other countries to step up their own efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In his speech, Biden will call on nations to “really keep our eyes on the ball when it comes to accelerating ambitious action to reduce emissions,” the official said. I he will emphasize his administration’s intention to propose rule this week requiring large federal contractors to develop carbon reduction targets and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, using the federal government’s purchasing power to combat climate change in the private sector and strengthen vulnerable supply chains.

But Republicans said they would work to repeal parts of the law and accused Biden of contributing to rising energy prices by blocking the extraction of fossil fuels, which contribute to climate change.

When Trump was president, he pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord entirely, the agreement’s leaders are meeting to discuss this week.

Even without U.S. political uncertainty, there are concerns about rising energy costs and a looming recession that could dampen resolve toward a cleaner energy transition. US officials have played down expectations for this year’s summit, which Biden is expected to attend for just a few hours.

In Congress, Biden has had more bipartisan success in his efforts to stand up to China, the other big issue he will face this week. A recently passed bill meant to bolster the US semiconductor industry won Republican and Democratic votes, in part because it promised to wean the US off its dependence on Chinese products.

Biden’s aides have been working for the past month to arrange his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since taking office, even as tensions simmer between Washington and Beijing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to self-ruled Taiwan in August angered Chinese leaders and led to a near blackout with the US.

On Wednesday, Biden said he and Xi would outline “what each of our red lines are” and discuss issues each believes are in their “critical national interests” during the meeting.

In his recently released National Security Strategy, Biden labeled China “America’s most important geopolitical challenge” and hopes a one-on-one meeting with Xi — who has just resumed international travel after the Covid-19 pandemic — will help establish lines of communication.

Xi comes to the G20 fresh from the historic Communist Party conference that elevated him to an unprecedented third term – a stark contrast to Biden’s current political situation.

It is not yet clear how this disparity will manifest itself in Bali.

“The big question is whether the two leaders will come in a kind of more conciliatory way or a more defiant way,” said Matthew Goodman, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“Both of them have been through their political events of the year and could be a little more free for one reason or another to try to reach out and find common ground,” Goodman said. “There are the kinds of global challenges that really affect both the U.S. and China — whether it’s growth, or pandemics, or climate change. And so there is the possibility of some kind of conciliatory approach on both sides.”

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