Who said what at the 76th UNGA

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 21, 2021

Most of the hard-hitting conversations at the UN General Assembly take place behind closed doors. Still, during High-Level Week, when leaders get up to speak at the podium, it's their one big shot to send a message to representatives from the entire world. Here's some of what went down today:


Brazil: Bolsonaro restrained — In the lead-up to the 76th UNGA, Brazil's unvaccinated President Jair Bolsonaro was causing a stir (again) by refusing to comply with New York state law requiring proof of vaccination in public places. (Unable to visit any of New York City's top-notch restaurants, Bolsonaro was snapped eating pizza on the sidewalk like the rest of us plebeians.)

But this confrontational attitude mostly disappeared when a very restrained Bolsonaro stood at the UNGA podium Tuesday, where he expressed support for vaccination efforts (though not mandates), and referenced the government's efforts to combat deforestation. Still, Bolsonaro invoked the culture wars by saying that more latitude should be given to doctors to experiment with COVID treatments, including the "off-label" treatments that aided his recovery last year. Either way, it's the most tame Bolsonaro we're going to get.

US: Biden did his shtick — Amid a massive row with the French, who were recently excluded from a US-led security pact in the Pacific, US President Joe Biden tried to reassert America's commitment to working with allies, which surely caused a few eye-rolls throughout the auditorium.

In a bid to defend his record on Afghanistan, Biden said that the era of "relentless diplomacy" would replace the era of "endless war," and reiterated his oft-repeated stance that US military power should not be used as an "answer to every problem we see around the world." Biden also pledged to boost funding to help poorer countries tackle climate change, and adopted a more conciliatory tone in referencing foes (presumably China): "We're not looking for a new Cold War."

While Biden appeared to say all the right stuff, contrasting with his predecessor's go-at-it-alone approach, in practice his foreign policy hasn't been that different from Trump's at all.

Iran: Raisi wants you to know he's tough — In a pre-recorded address, Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi made his UNGA debut. And one thing is clear: Raisi is no moderate. Much of his rant-laced speech was focused on denigrating "the US hegemonic system," though he did have some ripper one-liners: "no one cares about America First or America is Back." Raisi also lamented the lack of spirituality in the world, which he says, has spurred the rise of global terrorism.

Still, despite taking aim at the US and defending his country's "peaceful" nuclear program, Raisi did not push back against recent reports that Tehran could resume negotiations with the West over its nuclear program in the near term.

Turkey: Erdogan's laundry list — Clearly, the speechwriter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to make sure that no issue was left unchecked when his boss took the stage at UNGA. Erodgan covered it all. He took aim at wealthy countries for vaccine nationalism, which he called a "disgrace," and affirmed Turkey's commitment to allies spanning Africa, the EU, and Latin America. Turkey's strongman also paid lip service to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling the "persecution of Palestinians" one of the biggest impediments to Middle East stability.

Referencing a series of global crises, Erdogan made it clear that Ankara wants to be the power broker in Libya as well as in post-US Afghanistan, which he said has been "abandoned."

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

More Show less

Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

More Show less

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

More Show less

6,000: Poland has doubled the number of troops guarding its border with Belarus to almost 6,000 because of a surge in migrants trying to cross over (there were 612 attempts on Monday alone). Warsaw accuses Minsk of sending non-EU migrants into Poland as payback for EU sanctions against Belarus.

More Show less

Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

More Show less

China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal