In the season of summits, where does U.S. power stand?

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during the U.N. Security Council meeting.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during the U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine.
(Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Associated Press)
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It is the season of summits. Nearly half a dozen high-level international meetings of world leaders have taken place, or will take place, in a matter of a few weeks.

Among them: President Biden and America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, just returned to Washington from the annual gathering of the world’s top economies, the Group of 20, in New Delhi. Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris joined senior officials from 10 Southeast Asian countries, including several key U.S. allies, in Jakarta.

And next week, the General Assembly of the United Nations meets in New York. Biden, Blinken and nearly 150 leaders from around the world will deliver speeches, negotiate aid to Ukraine, debate climate policy and confront a host of other issues.


Hi, I’m Tracy Wilkinson, foreign policy reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and today we’re going to talk about the world order — the global architecture of power, influence and alliances — and how it’s changing.

A changing world

The traditional post-World War II arrangement of West vs. East is shifting, and, power and influence are becoming more diffused.

Sure, the United States remains the most powerful country in the world. But China now has the second-largest economy, and practices what U.S. officials often describe as unfair and harsh competitive tactics. India, meanwhile, now has the world’s largest population. And Russia, though widely seen as having declined in standing in recent years, has managed to turn the world on its head with its invasion of Ukraine — which has also exposed rivets of discord within Europe and between the West and the Global South.

The enthusiastic and robust ways in which Western capitals rushed rhetorically, and eventually militarily, to the defense of Kyiv created resentment among some countries in parts of Africa and Asia that received far less attention for their own deadly disasters. Some countries — including U.S. ally India — were not willing to turn their backs on Russia after years of cooperation and large trade exchanges.

The U.S. still plays an important leadership role on the global stage and is welcomed by numerous — but definitely not all — other governments.

Under Biden, the esteem with which many once held the United States was largely restored after the unpredictable and tumultuous Trump era, especially in Europe and inside NATO. Much of Biden’s summiteering, however, has been about building a counterbalance to China, even though he denies that is the main point, as my colleague Courtney Subramanian reported while traveling with the president.

“It’s not about containing China; it’s about having a stable base — a stable base in the Indo-Pacific,” Biden said as he was peppered with questions about U.S.-China relations during a news conference in Vietnam.


“We think too — too much in terms of Cold War terms,” Biden added. “It’s not about that. It’s about generating economic growth and stability in all parts of the world. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin skipped the G-20 meeting and are not expected to attend the U.N. sessions that start Monday.

But another summit that recently took place could also signal a realignment in world power. An alliance of non-Western or global south countries, known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), convened in Johannesburg. The group invited six additional countries to become members: Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Argentina and Ethiopia. Analysts said this alliance could emerge as an alternative center of power that could challenge the West or at least Washington. Administration officials dismiss that notion.

C. Raja Mohan, a fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, writing in Foreign Policy, suggested that while the “multilateralism” represented by organizations like the U.N. has become dysfunctional and paralyzed, a modern version of “minilateralism” is replacing it: smaller blocs of nations “getting things done.”

The latest on Republicans’ efforts to impeach President Biden

— Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday he is directing a House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden over his family’s business dealings, launching historic proceedings ahead of the 2024 election, the Associated Press reported.

— But McCarthy’s narrow majority is at risk in the 2024 elections, and the move toward impeaching Biden — especially without compelling evidence that the president has committed high crimes or misdemeanors — will put the most vulnerable Republicans in a tough spot. Democrat-aligned groups are already buying campaign ads on the subject, Times writer Erin B. Logan reported.


— House Republicans are pressing ahead with their investigations into the president’s son, Hunter. One IRS official the GOP subpoenaed in the matter testified privately last week, and another was set to appear Tuesday morning, Logan reported.

— An impeachment inquiry could easily become a circus, The Times Editorial Board warned.

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Other national political news

—Breaking with tradition, Biden marked the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in Alaska, rather than at one of the three East Coast sites where nearly 3,000 Americans died 22 years ago. Times writer Courtney Subramanian was on the scene.

The view from California

— California lawmakers successfully approved legislation on Tuesday to limit who can carry firearms in public, setting up a likely legal challenge that could reach the Supreme Court, Times writer Hannah Wiley reported.

— Laurel Rosenhall, The Times’ Sacramento bureau chief, rounded up the most interesting bills California lawmakers sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s desk this year.

— California lawmakers approved legislation on Monday to expand a housing law that has led to the construction of thousands of new homes, despite initial opposition from both labor unions and environmental groups, Wiley reported.


— Californians disapprove of the conservative-dominated Supreme Court’s work by a 2-1 margin, Times writer David G. Savage reported.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting.

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