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Tension between European leaders and the White House over a scuppered submarine deal threaten to overshadow the President

President Biden plans to use his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to advocate for a global response to the major issues currently facing the world, according to a senior administration official.

The pandemic, climate change, human rights, and the assault on democracy in countries around the world will all be topics in Biden’s address.

Biden has been working on the speech with his team for a few weeks and spent part of the weekend in Rehoboth polishing it, the official said.

The events of the past several days and weeks — including the withdrawal from Afghanistan, a drone strike that killed 10 civilians and a spat with France over nuclear submarines — are all complicating his debut as President at the General Assembly rostrum.

Officials view the speech and the other events surrounding it — including a Covid-19 summit on Wednesday and a meeting of “Quad” leaders on Friday (leaders of US, Japan, India and Australia) — as a critical moment for Biden to articulate his foreign policy vision and lay out what he believes should be the world’s priorities.  

The official said Biden doesn’t necessarily feel he needs to explain himself after a troubled stretch that caused rifts with major allies. But officials do believe that at this fraught moment, Biden can use his speech and other events to help other leaders understand his worldview better. 

He will speak about Afghanistan in his speech, including laying out expectations for the Taliban. Biden and other leaders are still assessing whether and when to recognize the Taliban as the official government of the country. 

He will also discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and argue for more aggressive measures around the world to contain the spread of the virus and prevent new variants from emerging. 

Speaking at the world’s foremost institution of multilateral diplomacy, the President will argue for a collective approach to global problems. Unlike his predecessor, Biden is a believer in the UN’s mission — if realistic about its efficacy — and wants to speak to its vital role in the world, the official said, particularly after four years under President Trump when the US commitment was questioned.

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