Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly came hours after Putin announced an expansion of his war effort, lending the annual speech Cold War-style gravitas as Biden sought to rally nations in an effort to isolate and punish Russia.
“This war is about destroying the right of Ukraine to exist as a state and the right of Ukrainians to exist as a people,” Biden told the international organization. “That should make your blood run cold.”
Speaking to a packed General Assembly hall, Biden called the seven-month invasion a “brutal, unnecessary war” that was a “shameful violation” of the United Nations Charter.
“Putin claims that he had to take action because Russia was threatened, but no one has threatened Russia and no one has attempted a conflict except Russia,” Biden said in his speech.
Biden accused Putin of making “irresponsible nuclear threats” in his speech and declared that “a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought”.
“Let’s be clear: a permanent member of the UN Security Council invaded its neighbor, trying to wipe a sovereign state off the map,” he said.
Hours earlier, in his 20-minute speech, Putin warned that he would use “all means at our disposal” if he felt Russia’s “territorial integrity” was threatened. Mobilization means citizens in reserve can be called up and those with military experience will be recruited, Putin said, adding that the necessary decree had already been signed and came into force on Wednesday.
In response, Biden said that Putin is waging a war to destroy the Ukrainian nation.
“We will stand united against Russia’s aggression,” he said.
Biden warned that the basis of the United Nations charter was “under attack” amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, which he called a “shameless” violation of the body’s founding document.
“As we meet today, the foundation of the United Nations Charter as a stable and just rules-based order is under attack from those who want to tear it down or distort it for their own political gain,” Biden said, referring to the 1945 charter. Negotiations by citizens “united in their commitment to work for peace.”
Putin’s rise came after the Russian army suffered a crushing defeat in more than six months of war. Biden, who has led efforts to isolate Russia and provide Ukraine with advanced weapons, planned to highlight those efforts in a speech Wednesday.
White House aides updated some of the language in Biden’s speech following Putin’s national address after Biden arrived in New York late Tuesday, an official said. But a complete rewrite wasn’t necessary because White House officials had some idea of what Putin would say.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also plans to address the UN later on Wednesday.
After debuting under the cloud of last year’s tumultuous Afghanistan withdrawal and domestic ambitions, Biden’s aides believe he enters his sophomore outing with a stronger hand.
“We believe the president goes to New York with the wind at his back,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, citing recent victories on most of the United Western fronts and domestic fronts, including historic investments in the climate fight. change
Questions about US leadership
Even as Biden announced a renewed U.S. leadership on Wednesday, deep questions remain over his ability to retain the position in the coming years amid fears of a global recession and threats to American democracy.
Biden has spent considerable time in recent weeks underscoring those threats, primarily to a domestic audience but with foreign capitals listening intently as well. “America is back,” he told fellow leaders in a recent speech around the table at last year’s Group of 7 summit in Cornwall, England.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Biden told the audience, asked him: “How long?”
An issue currently at the forefront of world affairs – the painful negotiations to restart the Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew – only underscores the consequences of the pendulum swing in American leadership.
In his speech, Biden reiterated his stance that the US will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons as negotiations to revive the nuclear deal have failed to make significant progress in recent months.
“While the United States is prepared to reciprocate the United States plan of action if Iran steps up to its obligations, the United States is clear: We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” Biden said.
For Biden, it was his annual United Nations speech to explain to the world how he has returned the United States to a position of leadership after Donald Trump’s “America First” years.
He has called for an expansion of the United Nations Security Council, saying countries should refrain from using their veto powers except in rare circumstances.
“The United States supports expanding the number of Security Council members and making them permanent,” Biden said in his speech.
He said continued vetoes by countries on the council were undermining its effectiveness and said using the veto only in “rare, extraordinary circumstances” would ensure the council “remains credible and effective”. Russia has consistently vetoed Security Council resolutions blocking action against Ukraine and elsewhere.
In his speech, Biden announced $2.9 billion in US aid to address global food insecurity. The $2.9 billion investment, the White House said in a fact sheet, is aimed at reducing food supplies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rampant inflation and other supply chain problems, and builds on $6.9 billion already committed by the U.S. this year.
That includes $2 billion in global humanitarian assistance through USAID, the US Agency for International Development.
Later Wednesday morning, Biden will hold a pledging session for the Global Fund to Fight HIV, AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In the evening, Biden and the first lady will host a reception for leaders at the American Museum of Natural History.
Drafted the speech in a week
U.S. officials have cautioned that Ukraine’s current gains do not signal a broader change in approach to the war, which is likely to be a protracted conflict. A day before Biden’s speech, two Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine officially announced plans to hold a referendum on joining Russia, with the US previously warning that the votes would be “shams”.
One of Biden’s goals in Wednesday’s speech was to emphasize the importance of unity among Western allies in supporting Ukraine in the uncertain months ahead.
That effort has been made more difficult by a growing energy crisis as Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Europe as winter sets in. The high costs, fueled in part by Western sanctions on Moscow, have created political unrest for many leaders. In Biden’s coalition, including himself.
New British leader meets
The president later on Wednesday met with one of the leaders, British Prime Minister Liz Truss. It will be Truss’ first formal one-on-one discussion since taking office earlier this month following her predecessor Boris Johnson’s decision to step down.
She inherited a deep economic crisis, fueled by high inflation and rising energy costs, which have led to fears that the UK will soon enter a long-term recession. While some in the Biden administration shed tears over Johnson’s resignation – Biden once described him as a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump – the US and the UK are deeply aligned in their approach to Russia under his leadership.
White House officials expect cooperation to continue under Truss, even as she faces pressure to ease fiscal pressures at home.
However, it is less certain whether Truss’ hard-line approach to Brexit will damage relations with Biden. The President has taken a personal interest in the specific issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a post-Brexit arrangement that requires extra checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The rules were designed to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland open and prevent a return to sectarian violence. But Truss has pushed for a rewrite of those rules, causing deep concern in both Brussels and Washington.
Biden’s message for China
Putin will not attend this year’s plenum, but his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was in New York for the event. Chinese President Xi Jinping also did not attend the United Nations this year.
The two autocratic leaders, who met in person last week, have strengthened ties between their countries as relations with the West sour. Biden has warned Xi against supporting Putin in his invasion of Ukraine, a theme he is expected to repeat in his speech on Wednesday.
Biden said in his speech that the US is not seeking “conflict” with China or other nations.
“We are not looking for a Cold War. We are not asking any nation to choose between the United States or any other partner,” Biden said.
This story has been updated on Wednesday with further developments.
CNN’s Betsy Klein contributed to this report.