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Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals. Getty Images photos: Benjamin Lowy

"I'm disappointed," Madeleine Albright says when asked about the lack of collective action on the pandemic, including at the UN this week. "Am I surprised? No."

What she's saying: "Given the kind of atmosphere that is out there by virtue of America's lack of interest — more than lack of interest, undermining — of an international system, it's hard."

Albright represented the U.S. as ambassador to the UN (1993-1997) and as secretary of state (1997-2001) when American power was near its apex.

  • She says that power is still there to be exerted to spur global action on issues like the pandemic, climate change and nuclear proliferation.
  • "There is nothing better than representing the United States, but you have to decide how you are going to use that power in terms of getting others to cooperate and be a part of a common solution."
  • "It requires a kind of diplomacy that is in many ways built on day-to-day relationships — putting ourselves in another country's shoes," she says.

The other side: President Trump made much the opposite argument in his address to the General Assembly, contending that the world would be better off if countries followed his lead and focused on their own populations.

  • Albright, who has endorsed Joe Biden, contends that there's still time for a course correction — but that if Trump is reelected, the "U.S.-led" global system may be impossible to put back together.
  • "Another four years of this, and it really is going to be increasingly difficult to persuade anybody that we are going to be dependable partners," she says.

Her bottom line: "After a while, I think people will say, 'If you don't want to be a partner, then go do your thing and we'll do ours.'"

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated Jul 3, 2020 - World

The 53 countries supporting China's crackdown on Hong Kong

Note: The U.S. has been highly critical of China over the law, but withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council in 2018; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Dueling statements at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva shed light on geopolitical currents far beyond the walls of that institution.

Driving the news: China's Foreign Ministry and state media declared victory after 53 countries backed Beijing's new national security law for Hong Kong. Just 27 criticized the law, which imposes harsh penalties for vaguely defined political crimes and is widely viewed as the death knell for Hong Kong's autonomy.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.