The High-Level Week of the UN General Assembly session opened with the Coronavirus Pandemic. World leaders “came together” at its headquarters in New York virtually. This allowed guests from Iran and DPRK not to worry about an American visa, and the protocol services – not to agree on schedules of presidents. But even any negotiations in the fields and on the sidelines were impossible. At the same time, on the screen, they talked about the urgent – first of all, about the epidemic and its consequences for the economy.
“The future we want and the UN we need” – this is the title of this year’s session suggested by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the organization. And it is unlikely that in the future the General Assembly will want to repeat the virtual format, but there was simply no choice. New York, where the UN headquarters is located, is in the center of the epidemic. And few of the country’s leaders would risk coming here. And also to survive the mandatory two-week quarantine.
Therefore, the General Assembly suggested the heads of state to record video speeches, which were shown during the debate. On the big screen in the hall watched a few guests – one from the country. The opening speech of the representative in the hall and broadcasting of the speech of the head of state was 15 minutes. And although the speeches were recorded in advance, many were out of order.
The U.S. president’s address was the shortest that he had already spoken with here – just over seven minutes. For example, three years ago he spoke for forty-one minutes. However, it more than compensated for the opening speech of the U.S. post president to the UN Kelly Kraft. She has long listened to the Trump administration in the international arena: she mentioned the agreements with Israel, the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, and the ceasefire in Idlib, Syria.
Trump began with the coronavirus, calling it “Chinese,” and continued with sharp criticism of Beijing. Among other things, he criticized Beijing for the “plague of peace. In addition, he called on the UN to address the “real problems” – which, in his opinion, are terrorism, oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, ethnic cleansing, persecution on religious grounds.
The President of the People’s Republic of China, who spoke soon after Trump, assured that China is ready to take an active part in international scientific research to identify the origin of coronavirus and ways of its transmission. “We will continue to share experience, diagnostic and treatment methods, assistance, and support to countries in need,” Xi Jinping promised. According to him, several Chinese vaccines are already in the third stage of clinical trials.
In the face of a pandemic, countries must join forces, he emphasized. And the role of the World Health Organization, often criticized by Trump, is seen by the Chinese leader as “key and leading.
“China is the world’s largest developing country. We will never seek hegemony, expansion, and spheres of influence. We’re not going to wage war with anyone, cold or hot,” concluded China’s president.
The Russian president, like his colleagues, recorded the appeal in advance. He performed live at the General Assembly five years ago. At that time, he noted the need to join forces to combat a terrorist group that shocked civilized humanity with its cruelty. This speech was held on September 28, 2015. And the 30th All-Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks launched the first airstrikes against the militants on Syrian territory. The actions of Russian aviation allowed turning the situation in favor of Damascus and squeezing out the terrorists.
Vladimir Putin began his current speech by reminding of two anniversaries: the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the creation of the United Nations. With today’s intricacies of world politics, the UN is worthy of fulfilling its main mission – to keep the peace, believes the Russian president. As for the discussions on reforming the organization, Moscow’s logic is to take into account the interests of all countries, but at the same time, as before, serve as a key link in the system of global governance.
“We all faced a fundamentally new challenge – the coronavirus pandemic – and Putin addressed the second theme of his speech. – Quarantines, closure of borders, creation of numerous difficult problems for citizens of almost all states – all these are the realities of today”.
The scale of the socio-economic shock associated with the epidemic has yet to be assessed. But it is already clear that it will take a long, very long time to restore the global economy. And the former anti-crisis measures will not always work, the Russian president believes. New, non-standard solutions will be required. And their countries can only work out together. This is the most important task for both the UN and the G20 countries.
Putin again drew attention to the Russian proposal to create green corridors free of trade wars and sanctions, primarily for essential goods, medicines, and personal protective equipment. And in general, clearing up, freeing world trade from barriers and illegitimate sanctions could be a good help to restore global growth and reduce unemployment. “This is a really acute global social problem, so the mission of politics now is to pave the way for trade, joint projects, and fair competition, rather than tying the hands of business and business initiative,” Putin insisted.
The pandemic has also sharpened a number of ethical and technological problems. For example, advanced digital technologies allowed to quickly restructure the education system, artificial intelligence – to select the optimal treatment schemes. But, like any other innovation, digital technologies tend to uncontrolled spread and may fall into the hands of radicals and extremists. Therefore, cybersecurity issues deserve the most serious discussion on the UN platform, Putin stressed.
In health care, as well as in economics, barriers to the partnership should be removed as much as possible. The Russian president proposed to hold in the near future an online high-level conference with the participation of states interested in cooperation on the creation of vaccines against coronavirus.
In anticipation of a face-to-face summit
“Dear colleagues, I would like to emphasize once again that Russia will do its best to promote peaceful, political and diplomatic settlement of regional crises and conflicts,” Putin addressed the audience. – Despite all disputes and disagreements, sometimes misunderstandings and even distrust of some colleagues, we will persist in proposing constructive, unifying initiatives, primarily in the sphere of arms control. This includes the prohibition of chemical, biological, and toxin weapons.
In addition, Moscow counts on mutual restraint in deploying new missile systems. Russia has already declared a moratorium on the deployment of medium- and shorter-range ground missiles in Europe and other regions of the world as long as the United States abstains from doing so. “Unfortunately, we do not hear any reaction to our proposal from either American partners or their allies,” Putin noted.
Russia also takes the initiative to conclude a legally binding agreement with the participation of all leading space powers, which would prohibit the placement of weapons in space, the use or threat of force against space objects.
In conclusion, Putin recalled the proposal to convene a summit of the “Big Five”: along with Russia, the USA, China, France, and the UK. The goal is to confirm the key principles of behavior in international affairs, to work out the ways to effectively solve the most acute problems of our time. The initiative found support among all participants. And now Moscow expects to hold a face-to-face meeting at the top as soon as the epidemiological situation allows.