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Biden calls on world leaders at the UN to stand up against Russia

UNITED NATIONS – President Joe Biden made his case to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that the world must remain united in defending Ukraine against Russian aggression, warning that no country can be safe if “we allow Ukraine is being divided” as he tries to rally support for Kiev’s efforts to repel a nearly nineteen-month Russian invasion with no end in sight.

The US president called on world leaders not to let support for Ukraine decline, arguing that Russia is counting on countries to grow tired of the protracted conflict in Kiev, allowing it to “brutalize Ukraine without consequences.” Only Russia stands in the way of a resolution, Biden argued, saying Moscow’s price for peace was “the surrender of Ukraine, the territory of Ukraine and the children of Ukraine.”

“I ask you this: If we give up the core principles of the United States to appease an aggressor, can any member state in this body be confident that they will be protected?” Biden said in his speech. “If we allow Ukraine to be divided, is the independence of any country safe?

He continued: “I respectfully suggest the answer is no.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky listens as President Joe Biden addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York, Tuesday, September 19, 2023. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The president’s strong rhetoric on Ukraine seemed aimed not only at a global audience but also at Washington, where an increasingly isolationist nature of the Republican Party is jeopardizing the US’s prospects of receiving the steady flow of aid that has flowed since its inception. of the war to Kiev has gone to complete successfully. in February 2022.

The Biden administration has asked Congress to greenlight another $24 billion in security and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but Republicans who control the House have all but ignored that request as lawmakers scramble to ensure government funding continues to flow even after the end of September. Motivated by the views of former President Donald Trump, a vocal faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives remains steadfastly opposed to more aid to Ukraine, even as other GOP lawmakers, especially in the Senate, continue to advocate aid to Kiev to deter Russia. prevent its attacks from spreading beyond Ukraine’s borders. boundaries.

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“We must resist this naked aggression today and deter other potential aggressors tomorrow,” Biden said in his UN address. “That is why the United States – together with our allies and partners around the world – will continue to stand with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity, and their freedom.”

Other senior members of the Biden administration made their case Tuesday, as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged allied defense leaders in remarks at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to “dig deep” and provide Ukraine with more air defense systems to help the country pay its debts to pay. counter-offensive.

The intention is for the broader message to resonate beyond Moscow and even Capitol Hill. Washington remains wary of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, where competing territorial claims have raised tensions in the region. Beijing also wants to reunite the mainland with the self-governing island of Taiwan, a goal that raises the prospect of another war.

During his speech, Biden described the partnerships the U.S. government fostered around the world — from Africa to the Indo-Pacific — that he said created economic, security and other progress, even as he emphasized that those relationships were not about ” the containment of any country” – an obvious reference to Beijing.

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“When it comes to China, I want to be clear and consistent,” Biden said. “We try to manage competition between our countries responsibly so that it does not end up in conflict. I said we are in favor of reducing risks – not decoupling – with China.”

Biden stressed that Beijing and Washington must work together on climate, and pointed to recent natural disasters — devastating heat waves, droughts and floods around the world — as part of a “snapshot” that tells the “urgent story of what lies ahead if we fail to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and start climate-proofing the world.”

Despite his own emphasis on climate as a priority, Biden does not plan to attend a special summit on climate that UN Secretary-General António Guterres will host on Wednesday, where countries will be encouraged to come up with new ideas and proposals on how to tackle the further reduce emissions and combat climate change. Officials downplayed Biden’s absence from the climate summit and said John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, will attend in Biden’s place.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky listens as President Joe Biden addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York, Tuesday, September 19, 2023. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky listens as President Joe Biden addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York, Tuesday, September 19, 2023. (Susan Walsh/AP)

In his 30-minute speech, Biden also repeatedly emphasized the value of institutions such as the United Nations and international coalitions that have helped the world meet key challenges such as poverty and disease, and also reiterated his defense of democracy, a common theme of his presidency.

“We will not retreat from the values ​​that make us strong,” Biden said. “We will defend democracy – our best tool to meet the challenges we face around the world. And we try to show how democracy can deliver results in ways that matter to people’s lives.”

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The annual forum was a chance for Biden to demonstrate to other world leaders — and to the 2024 American electorate — that he has restored American leadership on the world stage, which he said had declined under Trump.

There were some notable absences as Biden addressed the General Assembly, with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin – the leaders of the other permanent members of the UN Security Council – all skipping the meeting . U.S. officials downplayed that fact and instead emphasized the importance Biden places on appearing at the annual diplomatic forum.

For Biden, the main audience for Tuesday’s speech could be closer to home, as he looks to make clear to voters that he has skillfully handled a complex foreign policy agenda and that the experience that comes with years has proven to be an asset. It’s an argument that the 80-year-old Biden will likely continue to make to counter skepticism — even in his own Democratic Party — among voters concerned about his age.

After the speech, Biden sat down with Guterres, and later Tuesday he met with leaders of the so-called C5 group of Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Biden said cooperation between the nations is at “new heights” and outlined several areas of cooperation, including on crucial minerals and disability rights.

Xi has stepped up his own courtship of those countries. At his own summit in May with Central Asian leaders, Xi pledged to build more railway and other trade ties with the region and proposed jointly developing oil and gas resources.

“We are stronger, and I truly believe the world is safer when we stand together, our five nations,” Biden said after the closed-door meeting with the leaders.

Biden will hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House on Thursday.

Kim reported from Washington.

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