Blinken Jousts With China and Russia in United Nations Meeting
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, meeting with counterparts from both China and Russia on Friday, said that the United States would “push back forcefully” against breakers of international rules, even as he acknowledged his own country’s violations under the Trump administration.
Mr. Blinken’s counterparts, Foreign Ministers Wang Yi of China and Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia, took their own diplomatic swipes at the United States, accusing it of hypocrisy and of defining international rules in terms designed to assert Western dominance in the world.
The exchanges came at a United Nations Security Council meeting, convened by China and held virtually via videoconference link, on the theme of multilateral cooperation against the pandemic, global warming and other common threats.
It was in some ways a rematch between Mr. Blinken and Mr. Wang, who was part of a top Chinese delegation that brusquely lectured the United States at a meeting in Alaska two months ago. That unscripted confrontation was regarded heroically in China, where the government has stoked rising anti-Americanism and nationalism.
Although the terms and tone used in the Friday meeting were more diplomatic, the differences were stark in the world views espoused by Mr. Blinken and his counterparts. Those differences suggested that the gridlock among the big powers of the Security Council would not ease anytime soon.
The session was held the same week that Mr. Blinken, meeting with the foreign ministers of the Group of 7 nations in Britain, emphasized what he described as the importance of “defending democratic values and open societies” — a signal of the Biden administration’s intent to challenge China and Russia on human rights, disinformation and other issues that had been de-emphasized or ignored by the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
In another clear signal from the Biden administration, Mr. Blinken also visited Ukraine, where he pledged support for its fight against a Russian-backed insurgency that has claimed 13,000 lives since 2014.
Mr. Blinken asserted in his Security Council remarks that the United Nations remained a critical force for good in the world, responsible since its founding at the end of World War II for the most peaceful and prosperous era in modern history, but was now under severe threat.
“Nationalism is resurgent, repression is rising, rivalries among countries are deepening — and attacks against the rules-based order are intensifying,” Mr. Blinken said. “Some question whether multilateral cooperation is still possible. The United States believes it is not only possible, but imperative.”
Mr. Blinken said the United States would work with any country on the global threats presented by the coronavirus and climate change, “including those with whom we have serious differences.”
At the same time, he said, in a clear warning to China and Russia, that the United State would “push back forcefully when we see countries undermine the international order, pretend that the rules we’ve all agreed to don’t exist, or simply violate them at will.”
He did not lay out any new positions but clearly sought to emphasize that the Biden administration was committed to reversing the foreign-policy legacy of President Donald J. Trump, who frequently disparaged the United Nations and led the United States down what critics called a destructive, unilateral path.
“I know that some of our actions in recent years have undermined the rules-based order and led others to question whether we are still committed to it,” Mr. Blinken said. “Rather than take our word for it, we ask the world to judge our commitment by our actions.”
He enumerated how the Biden administration had rejoined the Paris Climate accord, halted Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization and was seeking to rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“We’re also taking steps, with great humility, to address the inequities and injustices in our own democracy,” he said. “We do so openly and transparently, for people around the world to see. Even when it’s ugly. Even when it’s painful.”
Mr. Wang, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency for May, sought to depict China as a responsible global citizen that adhered to international law. Without mentioning the United States by name, he chided countries that he said had defined international rules as a “patent or privilege of the few.”
He also declared that “no country should expect other countries to lose,” reflecting a Chinese accusation that the United States is seeking to suppress China’s ascendance — an accusation that Mr. Blinken and others have denied.
Mr. Lavrov was more direct in his criticisms of the United States and its allies, describing Mr. Blinken’s references to a “rules-based order” as a guise for Western efforts to repress other countries.
He was especially critical of the economic sanctions that the United States and European Union have imposed on Russia and others they disagree with, which Mr. Lavrov said were designed to “take opponents out of the game.”