Saturday, October 16, 2021

AP interview: UN chief warns China, US to avoid new Cold War

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Warning of a possible new Cold War, the UN chief has urged China and the United States to mend their “totally dysfunctional” ties before further escalation of problems between the two large and deeply influential nations. asked for. rest of the planet.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to the Associated Press later this week, ahead of the annual UN gathering of world leaders this week – a call by COVID, climate concerns and controversy across the planet.

Guterres said the world’s two major economic powers should cooperate on climate and negotiate trade and technology more strongly in the South China Sea, given the continuing political rifts about human rights, economics, online security and sovereignty.

“Unfortunately, today we only have a confrontation,” Guterres said in an AP interview on Saturday.

“We need to re-establish a functional relationship between the two powers,” he said, “which is needed to address the problems of vaccination, the problems of climate change and many other global challenges that have been addressed at the international level.” But cannot be resolved without constructive relations between the community and mainly the superpowers.”

Two years ago, Guterres warned global leaders about the risk of splitting the world, with the United States and China rivaling Internet, currency, trade, financial rules “and their own zero-sum geopolitical and military strategies”.

He reiterated that warning in an AP interview, saying the two rival geopolitical and military strategies would create “threats” and divide the world. Thus, he said, the founding relationship must be repaired – and soon.

“We need to avoid a Cold War at all costs that will be different from the previous one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage,” Guterres said.

The so-called Cold War between the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies and the United States and its Western allies began shortly after World War II and ended with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was a two nuclear-armed conflict. Superpowers with rival ideologies – communism and authoritarianism on the one hand, capitalism and democracy on the other.

The UN chief said a new Cold War could be more dangerous because the anti-Soviet US had made clear rules, and both sides were aware of the risk of nuclear destruction. He created back channels and forums to “guarantee that things won’t get out of control,” he said.

“Now, today, everything is more fluid, and even the experience that existed in the past to manage the crisis is no longer there,” Guterres said.

He said the US-UK agreement to give Australia nuclear-powered submarines so that it could operate unscheduled in Asia is “just one small piece of a more complex puzzle … it is the difference between China and the United States”. There is a completely bad relationship between them.”

The secretly negotiated deal angered China and France, who had signed contracts with Australia for a dozen French conventional diesel-electric submarines worth at least $66 billion.

In a wide-ranging AP interview, the secretary general also addressed three key issues that world leaders will face this week: the worsening climate crisis, the still raging pandemic and the uncertain future of Afghanistan under its new Taliban rulers. He took power on August 15 without a fight with the government’s US-trained military as US forces were in the final stages of withdrawing from the country after 20 years.

What will be the role of the United Nations in the new Afghanistan? Guterres called it “a fantasy”, to believe that UN participation would “suddenly be able to form an inclusive government, to guarantee that all human rights are respected, to guarantee that Afghanistan No terrorist will ever be present in the drug trafficking stop.”

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Ultimately, he said, the United States and many other countries had thousands of troops in Afghanistan and spent trillions of dollars and were not able to solve the country’s problems — and, some say, made them worse.

Although the UN has “limited capability and limited leverage”, he said, it is playing a key role in major efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Afghans. He said the UN is also drawing the Taliban’s attention to the importance of an inclusive government that respects human rights, especially those of women and girls.

“There is clearly a fight for power within the various groups under the Taliban leadership. The situation is yet to be clarified,” he said, citing it as another reason why the international community should engage with the Taliban.

While former US President Donald Trump was drawn to an “America First” policy, President Joe Biden – who will make his first appearance as chief executive at a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on Tuesday – has reaffirmed US commitment to multilateral institutions. is confirmed.

Guterres said Biden’s commitment to global action on climate, including joining the 2015 Paris climate accord, which Trump withdrew, “is probably the most important of them all.”

He said there is “an entirely different atmosphere in the relationship” between the United Nations and the United States under Biden. But, Guterres said, “I did everything – and I am proud of it – to ensure that we would maintain the functional relationship with the United States in the previous administration.”

Guterres also lamented the failure of countries to work together to combat global warming and ensure that people in every country are vaccinated.

Regarding the last year of the COVID-19 struggles, he said: “We have not been able to make any real progress with regard to the effective coordination of global efforts.”

And about climate: “A year ago, we were seeing a more pronounced movement in the right direction, and that movement has slowed in recent times. So if we’re not going to run into disaster, we need to pick up the pace again.” needed.”

Guterres called it “completely unacceptable” that 80% of the population in his native Portugal has been vaccinated, while in many African countries, less than 2% of the population has been vaccinated.

“It’s completely foolish from the point of view of defeating the virus, but if this virus spreads like wildfire in the global south, there will be more mutations,” he said. “And we know that the mutations are making it more permeable, more dangerous.”

He again urged the world’s 20 major economic powers in the G20, which failed to take united action against COVID-19 in early 2020, to create the conditions for a global vaccination plan. He said countries making such a plan should work with international financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies to double production and ensure equitable distribution.

“I think it’s possible,” Guterres said. “It depends on the political will.”

The Secretary-General said that rich, developed countries are spending about 20% of their GDP on recovery problems, middle-income countries about 6% and the least developed countries are spending 2% of small GDP. He says there has been despair and mistrust in parts of the developing world that have received neither vaccines nor recovery aid.

The divide between developed countries in the north and developing countries in the south is “very dangerous for global security,” Guterres said, “and it is very dangerous for the ability of the world to come together to fight climate change.”


Edith M. Lederer, United Nations chief correspondent for the Associated Press, has been reporting internationally for nearly 50 years. Follow him on Twitter at


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