President Joe Biden on Tuesday made a forceful call for the world to stand up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, calling for leaders to stand firm in their support of President Volodymyr Zelensky and his nation as the war heads toward its second autumn.
Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin and his armed forces are betting that the world will grow weary of supporting Ukraine and it is incumbent upon the countries in the United Nations to stand firm against Putin's aggression.
"If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure? I respectfully suggest the answer is no. We have to stand up to this naked aggression today and deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow," Biden said, reports CNN. "That's why the United States, together with our allies and partners around the world, will continue to stand with the brave peopel of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity and their freedom," he added.
The annual UN talks are unfolding for the second year under the shadow of the war in Ukraine, and the conflict will remain a focus for leaders. While the UN has led on organizing humanitarian aid during the conflict, it hasn't acted as a mediator in the war. Biden is set to meet with Zelensky - who was in the audience for Biden's speech on Tuesday - in Washington later this week. "For the second year in a row, this gathering - dedicated to peaceful resolution of conflicts - is darkened by the shadow of war. An illegal war of conquest brought without provocation against its neighbor Ukraine," Biden said.
He added, "Russia alone bears responsibility for this war. Russia alone has the power to end this war immediately. And it's Russia alone that stands in the way of peace."
Biden also returned to an issue that he frequently turns to in his public remarks - the future of democracy in the world. The president has often cast the fundamental motivating issue of his presidency as democracy vs. autocracy. And one day after the president railed against his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, in a sharpened speech at a fundraiser warning that Trump was "determined to destroy democracy," Biden pressed the importance of democratic institutions.
"We will defend democracy: our best tool to meet the challenges that we face around the world. We're working to show how democracy can deliver in ways that matter to people's lives," he said, pointing to global infrastructure partnerships and investments in low and middle income countries.
The president frequently uses China as an example of that contrast. But at the UN, he sought to emphasize a more diplomatic tone regarding the American relationship with China, saying he wants competition and not conflict.
"I want to be clear and consistent: We seek to responsibly manage the competition between our countries so it does not tip into conflict. I've said we are for de-risking, not decoupling on China," he said, warning that the US will "push back on aggression."
Biden says US' future is tied to other nations:
This year, the nations of the "global south" are also demanding attention from leaders. Many have watched with skepticism as the West rallies attention and funding for Ukraine while their crises go unnoticed.
Biden will meet Wednesday with Brazil's President Lula da Silva to discuss labor issues and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Biden has clashed on the country's controversial judicial reform plan.
Biden and Netanyahu, the senior official said, will "discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues focused on the shared democratic values between our two countries and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region, as well as compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran."
But with high-level absences from Russia, China, France, and the UK - all permanent members of the UN Security Council - the Biden administration will be relegated to lower-level engagements with key allies and adversaries, all while hoping to elevate the United States' views of global infrastructure, food security, democratic values, and territorial sovereignty.
Reiterating his belief that the world is at an "inflection point in history," Biden told the assembly, "As president of the United States, I understand the duty my country has to lead this critical moment."
Biden heralded his administration's efforts toward fighting the climate crisis, including investment toward clean energy, climate financing in developing countries, and steps toward the climate finance pledge outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement, though he called for additional public and private sector investment.
As the US seeks to counter the authoritarian pull of Russia and China, Biden is joining the presidents of five Central Asian nations - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan - for the "first-ever so-called C5+1 presidential summit" on Tuesday, the first senior official said, for a discussion on regional security, trade and connectivity, climate, and reforms to improve governance and the rule of law.
"The United States seeks a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable world for all people, because we know our future is bound to yours. … And no nation can meet the challenges of today alone," Biden said Tuesday.