Biden makes impassioned plea at UN, warns world can't abandon Ukraine

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

UNITED NATIONS – President Joe Biden called Tuesday on world leaders to stand firm against “naked aggression,” casting solidarity with Ukraine in its war with Russia as a necessary step to deter other would-be aggressors.

In wide-ranging remarks to the U.N. General Assembly, Biden warned that Russia believes the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence. But if member nations abandon the core principles of the U.N. charter and appease an antagonist, no member nation can feel safe, he said.

“If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” Biden asked. “I respectfully suggest the answer is no.”

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listened from the audience, Biden condemned Russia’s attack against its neighbor as “an illegal war of conquest” and said the U.S. and its coalition of allies support Ukraine’s efforts to bring about a diplomatic resolution that will deliver lasting peace. Russia’s price for peace, he said, is Ukraine’s capitulation, its territory and its children.

“Russia alone bears the responsibility for this war,” Biden said. “Russia alone has the power to end this war immediately. And it is Russia alone that stands in the way of peace.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the United Nations headquarters on September 19, 2023 in New York City. Heads of states and governments from at least 145 countries are gathered for the 78th UNGA session amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and fires around the globe.

Home at last: 5 American prisoners released in prison swap with Iran have safely returned to US

Biden’s remarks to the high-profile gathering of world leaders come as American support for the war in Ukraine has softened and congressional Republicans are resisting his request for $24 billion in military and humanitarian aid for the war-torn nation.

Zelenskyy is scheduled to address the assembly later Tuesday. Later, he will travel to Washington and meet with Biden and the White House on Thursday.

Notably absent for Biden’s remarks was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who skipped the U.N. gathering.

Biden’s speech to the U.N., the third of his presidency, came just hours after five Americans imprisoned in Iran landed on U.S. soil after they were freed as part of a prisoner swap the Biden administration negotiated with Tehran. The swap is not formally linked to stalled nuclear talks between the two rivals, but Biden pledged in his U.N. remarks that the U.S. would continue to pursue “good-faith efforts” to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. remains committed to diplomacy that will bring about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and addressing Iran’s destabilizing activities that threaten regional and global security, he said. That includes a steadfast commitment “that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Crunch time: Why the Ukrainian counteroffensive is making little progress against Russian defense.

Turning to tensions between the U.S. and China, Biden said the U.S. seeks to responsibly manage competition between the two countries so that it does not tip into conflict. The U.S. will continue to push back on Chinese aggression and intimidation and will work to level the economic playing field between world’s two largest economies, Biden said.

“But we also stand ready to work together with China on issues,” he said, adding that “progress hinges on our common efforts.”

Nowhere is that more critical accelerating the fight against the climate crisis, Biden said.

Record-breaking heatwaves in the U.S. and China, wildfires in North America and southern Europe, a fifth year of drought in the Horn of Africa and recent flooding in Libya are snapshots of what awaits the world if nations fail to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and begin climate-proof measures, Biden said.

Biden cited partnerships the U.S. is fostering around the globe in places like Africa, Latin America and southeast Asia and stressed that none of them are about “containing any country” but are focused on developing a vision for a shared future.

Recalling his visit to Vietnam last week, Biden said just a few years ago it would have been unimaginable to think that a U.S. president would stand in Hanoi alongside a Vietnamese leader and announce a mutual partnership.

"It's a powerful reminder that our history need not dictate our future,” he said. “With concerned leadership, careful effort, adversaries can become partners. Overwhelming challenges can be resolved, and deep wounds can heal. So let us never forget that."

On Wednesday, Biden will hold bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in New York.

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @mcollinsNEWS.

Prisoner swap: Americans freed from Iran survived the infamous Evin prison. Here are their stories.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden talks more Ukraine support, China tensions at United Nations