UN Warns China, US to Avoid Cold War 09/20 06:08
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Warning of a potential new Cold War, the head of the
United Nations implored China and the United States to repair their "completely
dysfunctional" relationship before problems between the two large and deeply
influential countries spill over even further into the rest of the planet.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to The Associated Press this
weekend ahead of this week's annual United Nations gathering of world leaders
-- a convening blemished by COVID, climate concerns and contentiousness across
Guterres said the world's two major economic powers should be cooperating on
climate and negotiating more robustly on trade and technology even given
persisting political fissures about human rights, economics, online security
and sovereignty in the South China Sea.
"Unfortunately, today we only have confrontation," Guterres said Saturday in
the AP interview.
"We need to re-establish a functional relationship between the two powers,"
he said, calling that "essential to address the problems of vaccination, the
problems of climate change and many other global challenges that cannot be
solved without constructive relations within the international community and
mainly among the superpowers."
Two years ago, Guterres warned global leaders of the risk of the world
splitting in two, with the United States and China creating rival internets,
currency, trade, financial rules "and their own zero-sum geopolitical and
He reiterated that warning in the AP interview, adding that two rival
geopolitical and military strategies would pose "dangers" and divide the world.
Thus, he said, the foundering relationship must be repaired -- and soon.
"We need to avoid at all cost a Cold War that would be different from the
past one, and probably more dangerous and more difficult to manage," Guterres
The so-called Cold War between the Soviet Union and its East bloc allies and
the United States and its Western allies began immediately after World War II
and ended with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was a clash of two
nuclear-armed superpowers with rival ideologies -- communism and
authoritarianism on one side, capitalism and democracy on the other.
The U.N. chief said a new Cold War could be more perilous because the
Soviet-U.S. antipathy created clear rules, and both sides were conscious of the
risk of nuclear destruction. That produced back channels and forums "to
guarantee that things would not get out of control," he said.
"Now, today, everything is more fluid, and even the experience that existed
in the past to manage crisis is no longer there," Guterres said.
He said the U.S.-Britain deal to give Australia nuclear-powered submarines
so it could operate undetected in Asia "is just one small piece of a more
complex puzzle ... this completely dysfunctional relationship between China and
the United States."
The secretly negotiated deal angered China and France, which had signed a
contract with Australia worth at least $66 billion for a dozen French
conventional diesel-electric submarines.
In the wide-ranging AP interview, the secretary-general also addressed three
major issues that world leaders will be confronting this week: the worsening
climate crisis, the still-raging pandemic and Afghanistan's uncertain future
under its new Taliban rulers. They took power Aug. 15 without a fight from the
government's U.S.-trained army as American forces were in the final stage of
withdrawing from the country after 20 years.
What role will the United Nations have in the new Afghanistan? Guterres
called it "a fantasy" to believe that U.N. involvement "will be able all of a
sudden to produce an inclusive government, to guarantee that all human rights
are respected, to guarantee that no terrorists will ever exist in Afghanistan,
that drug trafficking will stop."
After all, he said, the United States and many other countries had thousands
of soldiers in Afghanistan and spent trillions of dollars and weren't able to
solve the country's problems -- and, some say, made them worse.
Though the United Nations has "limited capacity and limited leverage," he
said, it is playing a key role in leading efforts to provide humanitarian aid
to Afghans. The U.N. is also drawing the Taliban's attention to the importance
of an inclusive government that respects human rights, especially for women and
girls, he said.
"There is clearly a fight for power within different groups in the Taliban
leadership. The situation is not yet clarified," he said, calling it one more
reason why the international community should engage with the Taliban.
While former U.S. president Donald Trump was wedded to an "America First"
policy, President Joe Biden -- who will make his first appearance as chief
executive at the General Assembly's high-level meeting Tuesday -- has
reaffirmed U.S. commitment to multilateral institutions.
Guterres said Biden's commitment to global action on climate, including
rejoining the 2015 Paris climate agreement that Trump withdrew from, is
"probably the most important of them all."
He said there is "a completely different environment in the relationship"
between the United Nations and the United States under Biden. But, Guterres
said, "I did everything -- and I'm proud of it -- in order to make sure that we
would keep a functional relationship with the United States in the past
Guterres also lamented the failure of countries to work together to tackle
global warming and ensure that people in every country are vaccinated.
Of the past year of COVID-19 struggles, he said: "We were not able to make
any real progress in relation to effective coordination of global efforts."
And of climate: "One year ago, we were seeing a more clear movement in the
right direction, and that movement has slowed down in the recent past . So we
need to re-accelerate again if we are not going into disaster."
Guterres called it "totally unacceptable" that 80% of the population in his
native Portugal has been vaccinated while in many African countries, less than
2% of the population is vaccinated.
"It's completely stupid from the point of view of defeating the virus, but
if the virus goes on spreading like wildfire in the global south, there will be
more mutations," he said. "And we know that mutations are making it more
transmissible, more dangerous."
He again urged the world's 20 major economic powers in the G20, who failed
to take united action against COVID-19 in early 2020, to create the conditions
for a global vaccination plan. Such a plan, he said, must bring together
vaccine-producing countries with international financial institutions and
pharmaceutical companies to double production and ensure equitable distribution.
"I think this is possible," Guterres said. "It depends on political will."
The secretary-general said rich, developed countries are spending about 20%
of their GDP on recovery problems, middle income countries about 6% and the
least developed countries 2% of a small GDP. That, he says, has produced
frustration and mistrust in parts of the developing world that have received
neither vaccines nor recovery assistance.
The divide between developed countries in the north and developing countries
in the south "is very dangerous for global security," Guterres said, "and it's
very dangerous for the capacity to bring the world together to fight climate