President Biden at U.N. General Assembly, calls for more support for Ukraine amid Putin’s new threats

NEW YORK — In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, President Joe Biden described the crucial conflict facing world leaders as a duel between democracy and autocracy, in direct response to fresh threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Escalate war in Ukraine.

The speech is Biden’s first at the forum since Russia invaded Ukraine and offers him an opportunity to condemn the Kremlin in front of an audience of other world leaders.

Biden opened his remarks with a strong rebuke of Putin after earlier Wednesday ordering a partial mobilization of reservists in Russia and raising the specter of using nuclear weapons following a retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

“Let’s be clear, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has invaded its neighbor and has attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map,” Biden said. “Russia has shamelessly violated the fundamental pillars of the United Nations Charter.”

“Just today, President Putin openly issued nuclear threats against Europe and recklessly disregarded the responsibilities of a non-proliferation regime,” Biden continued.

The White House also said Wednesday morning Biden would announce a pledge of $2.9 billion in global food aid to counter growing famine in the Horn of Africa and soaring food prices around the world due to the war in Ukraine and inflation.

As Biden grapples with a slew of complicated global issues, the high-stakes summit poses a number of challenges for the administration.

The no shows

Although sessions of the UN General Assembly offer a wealth of opportunities for face-to-face diplomacy – something the President is proud of – two key players will not be present: the leaders of Russia and China.

“Our competitors are facing increasing headwinds, and neither President Xi nor President Putin are even showing up for this global gathering,” Sullivan said.

In Putin’s case, the most pressing of these headwinds are losses on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to government officials.

Before meeting his UK counterpart, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken denounced reports that Moscow plans to hold mock referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine to pave the way for the territory’s annexation and that Putin may deploy additional troops to support Ukraine becomes a war effort.

“I think that’s no surprise either that this is happening now. We’ve seen significant gains from Ukraine over the past few weeks,” said Blinken. “It’s a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of Russian failure.”

However, with a number of other leaders pushing for peace negotiations, the meeting does not provide Biden with a solid opportunity to embark on that path with leaders of countries involved in the conflict. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in New York, but there are no plans on the books for a meeting with US officials.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is also set to deliver a speech on Wednesday, but he will do so remotely as he is the only leader allowed to appear virtually this year.

The absence of China’s Xi Jinping means there is no chance for a face-to-face meeting with the president, which has not happened since Biden took office. And the two have an ever-growing list of differences to discuss.

There have been several escalations in recent months, with China responding to any perceived US move toward recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign state with force demonstrations, a strategy that a senior State Department official described as an attempt to normalize military pressure designated.

While the administration says Washington’s longstanding one-China policy remains in effect, Biden also said US troops would defend Taiwan if attacked.

The fickle 5?

Russia’s august position as one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council has put a significant damper on the body’s efforts to curb its aggression, leading to calls that it should be removed altogether.

Biden won’t go quite that far, Sullivan said.

“It’s not something he’s going to bring up tomorrow, although I think the world can see that if a permanent member acts in this way, it goes to the heart of the UN Security Council and that should make everyone press together.” Moscow is changing course,” he said.

But US officials appear to be backing a plan. Instead of withdrawing Russia from the permanent members of the council, they could try to make additions.

A senior State Department official said Biden will seek to “revitalize” the reform drive, arguing the arm needs to be “more representative of the world’s population and filled with countries willing to work together.”

The chances of expanding the council seem slim. Reforming its composition would require an amendment to the UN Charter, a move that could be vetoed by Russia or any other permanent member.

The rest of the agenda

As the war in Ukraine looks to dominate the General Assembly, government officials have stressed that they want to address other global issues as well.

One pressing matter facing the White House is its push to return to an Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran. Indirect negotiations appear to have stalled again, and officials from both countries appear increasingly pessimistic that the pact can be extended.

Sullivan said Biden plans to reiterate that the US is ready to return to a deal, but he doesn’t expect any major breakthroughs.

Even meeting one of America’s closest allies has its thorns. Biden is set to hold his first meeting with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss as differences between the two’s economic policies become increasingly apparent.

Recently, Truss said finalizing a long-awaited trade deal with the US is not a key priority and is unlikely to happen anytime soon. But Sullivan said it would be on the President’s list.

“I think they’re going to talk about the US-UK economic relationship,” Sullivan said, adding they would also address other areas where Truss and Biden have more in common, such as supporting Ukraine and dealing with the energy crisis in Europe.

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