President Biden delivered his debut address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday amid strong new doubts about his ability to vault the United States back into a position of global leadership after his predecessor’s promotion of “America First” isolationism.

Speaking to a smaller than usual audience of his peers because of the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Biden called for a new era of global unity against the coronavirus, climate change, emerging technological threats and the expanding influence of autocratic nations such as China and Russia.

“No matter how challenging or how complex the problems we’re going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people,” he said, insisting that the United States and its Western allies would remain vital partners.

“Our security, our prosperity and our very freedoms are interconnected, in my view as never before,” Mr. Biden said.

Calling for the world to make the use of force “our tool of last resort, not our first,” he defended his decision to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a chaotic withdrawal of American troops that left allies blindsided.

“Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants.”

But Mr. Biden’s efforts to move America past President Donald J. Trump’s more confrontational policies come amid growing frustration among allies with his administration’s diplomatic approach.

His familiar refrain that the world must choose between democracy and autocracy looks different now that the Taliban are once again in control of Kabul, reversing many of

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