WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden slammed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “shameless violation” of United Nations principles during a speech to the body on Wednesday, hours after Russia President Vladimir Putin seemed to threaten to use nuclear weapons against Kyiv.
“Russia has shamelessly violated the fundamental principles of the UN charter – no more important than the clear prohibition on countries taking territory from their neighbors by force,” Biden told the General Assembly. United Nations. “If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we are jeopardizing everything that this institution stands for.”
In a speech lasting about 30 minutes, Biden said the war in Ukraine was intended to “extinguish Ukraine’s right to exist as a state…and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” calling Putin for making “irresponsible nuclear threats”.
“A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought,” Biden said in his speech.
Biden’s remarks to nearly 200 world leaders gathered for the first in-person United Nations General Assembly since the pandemic struck came just hours after Putin delivered a speech announcing the partial mobilization of the military reservists, a significant escalation of its war in ukraine. In the same speech, Putin appeared to threaten nuclear retaliation if Kyiv continues its efforts to reclaim occupied territory.
The rally comes at a perilous time on multiple fronts. Russia’s war in Ukraine has upended global food supplies and threatens to tip Europe into recession this winter as the continent braces for soaring energy costs. The United States also faces heightened tensions with China, which has shown signs of growing aggression toward Taiwan. And climate change continues to be one of the most daunting international challenges.
In his speech, Biden announced $2.9 billion in new U.S. government assistance to address “acute food insecurity” which he says has been caused by war, Ukraine and climate change.
Biden again warned of a “global competition between democracy and autocracy” – a major theme of his presidency that he has sought to champion on the world stage even as he has sounded the alarm over the internal threats to America’s own democratic values.
Biden, who has repeatedly accused former President Donald Trump and his supporters of promoting an extreme ideology that threatens democracy, said Wednesday that the United States is “committed to defending and strengthening democracy at home and in the world.” world”.
“I believe that democracy remains humanity’s greatest instrument for meeting the challenges of our time,” he said.
At a fundraiser in New York on Tuesday night, Biden warned donors against the “MAGA crowd” and said the United States was at “an inflection point.” “You can’t claim to be a Democrat with a small d if you engage in violence against the government,” Biden told the crowd.
Biden comes to the meeting on firmer ground than last year when his speech came just weeks after the deadly and chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan caused world leaders to question the leadership role of America in the world.
Today, U.S. efforts to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia showed significant signs of progress in recent days after Ukraine reclaimed territory in the northeastern province of Kharkiv, in what many observers have said could be a watershed change as the war nears its seventh month.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the group virtually later on Wednesday. Putin said last month he would not attend the meeting.
On China, Biden faces a delicate balancing act as tensions have escalated in recent months. During a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that aired on Sunday, he said U.S. forces would defend Taiwan if China invaded, a position criticized by Beijing.
This is at least the fourth time since last year that Biden has made comments that appear to alter longstanding US policy toward Taiwan, although White House officials have said there is no had been no change in policy.
“We seek to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and remain committed to our one-China policy, which has helped prevent conflict for four decades,” Biden said Wednesday.
The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons, but it has a policy of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to exactly how it would react to Chinese aggression on the island.
Chinese President Xi Jinping did not attend the UN meeting.
Biden arrived in New York on Tuesday, a day after returning to Washington, DC, from London where he joined other world leaders to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
While in New York, he also met with UN Secretary General António Guterres and Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss on Wednesday. He will also speak at the Global Fund Conference to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and host a reception with other world leaders at the American Museum of Natural History.
Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner and Carol E. Lee contributed.