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Biden implores world leaders to stand up to Russia’s ‘naked aggression’ in Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023.    (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
By Courtney Subramanian and Tracy Wilkinson Los Angeles Times

UNITED NATIONS – President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged world leaders to strengthen their resolve in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, telling those gathered at the United Nations General Assembly that it was their duty to uphold the “core tenets” of the U.N. charter.

“Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence,” Biden bellowed inside the U.N. chamber in New York.

“But I ask you this: If we abandon the core principles of the U.N. charter to appease an aggressor, can any member state feel confident that they are protected? If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?”

The answer is no, Biden said.

“We must stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow,” he added.

Biden used the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering taking place this week to lay out a U.S.-led vision to confront the world’s most pressing challenges, including tackling the climate crisis, addressing artificial intelligence and investing in developing nations of the Global South. The president sought to appeal to developing nations that have been hardest hit by the economic turmoil wrought by the war in Ukraine, some of which have urged global leaders to refocus attention on other issues including poverty and inequality.

“The United States seeks a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable world for all people, because we know our future is bound to yours,” Biden told his foreign counterparts. “Let me repeat that again: We know our future is bound to yours.

“And no nation can meet the challenges of today alone.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who listened as Biden spoke, echoed the president’s plea later Tuesday during his first in-person remarks at the U.N. General Assembly since Russia’s invasion. Last year, he addressed the chamber remotely.

The Ukrainian leader will travel to Washington, D.C., on Thursday for a White House visit and to meet with congressional leaders as he looks to shore up more support for his besieged country. A CNN poll released last month found that 51% of respondents said that the U.S. “has done enough” to aid Ukraine in the war, compared with 48% who said they want America to do more.

Biden is asking Congress for more than $13 billion in additional military support for Ukraine and another $8.5 billion for humanitarian aid. Though there is broad bipartisan support for Kyiv, some hard-line Republican lawmakers have sought to cut back on sending more aid to Ukraine as part of a government funding deal. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is set to meet with Zelenskyy on Wednesday.

Biden later met with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and leaders of five Central Asian nations – Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – which includes countries that border Russia and China.

Saying the cooperation among the nations is at “new heights,” Biden outlined areas of collaboration, including on critical minerals and disability rights.

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

The president also sought to rebuff any notion that the U.S. is ratcheting up tensions with China, despite recent U.S.-led efforts to counter China’s international investment program and to shore up relationships in Beijing’s backyard.

“When it comes to China, let me be clear and consistent,” Biden said. “We seek to responsibly manage the competition between our countries so it does not tip into conflict.”

China’s Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has a warrant for his arrest by the International Criminal Court, were absent from this year’s General Assembly. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron also skipped the meeting.

On Wednesday, Biden will meet Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before traveling back to Washington.