Biden offers support for Ukraine, stresses global unity in United Nations speech

"Russia alone bears responsibility for this war," Biden said.

September 19, 2023, 11:12 AM

President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued a defense of American leadership abroad and reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine during a high-profile speech at the United Nations -- as the 2024 presidential election ramps up at home.

In particular, Biden reiterated U.S. support for revamping how the World Bank and other multilateral development banks work with low- and middle-income countries. The push is an implicit counterweight to China's longtime investment in developing nations around the world.

"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 said in his remarks stressing global unity. "Let me repeat that again. We know our future is bound to yours. And no nation can meet the challenges of today alone."

The president's Tuesday speech to the United Nations General Assembly also tackled climate change, artificial intelligence, expansion to the United Nations Security Council, investing in the "Global South" and more.

"We gather once more at an inflection point in world history," Biden said. "I understand the duty my country has at this critical moment."

"As president of the United States, I understand the duty my country has to lead this critical moment, to work with countries in every region linking them in common cause, to join together with partners who share a common vision of the future of the world, where our children do not go hungry and everyone has access to quality health care, where workers are empowered and our environment is protected, where entrepreneurs and innovators everywhere can access opportunity everywhere, where conflicts are resolved peacefully and countries can chart their own course."

President Joe Biden addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, September 19, 2023.
Mike Segar/Reuters

Biden closed his speech by addressing Ukraine and laying into Russia -- which he said is to blame for an "illegal war of conquest brought without provocation."

"No nation wants this war to end more than Ukraine," the president said. "We strongly support Ukraine in its efforts to bring about diplomatic resolution that delivers just and lasting peace. Russia alone bears responsibility for this war."

Biden said sovereignty and territorial integrity are central to the United Nations Charter, and framed continued support to Ukraine as an investment to protect those tenets for all countries.

"If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?" Biden asked. "I respectfully suggest the answer is no. We have to stand up to this naked aggression today and deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow."

"That's 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 and territorial integrity and their freedom," he continued, prompting a round of applause from the audience.

Biden's presence on the world stage comes one week after he returned from a trip to India and Vietnam, where he pushed for development bank reform at a meeting of "Group of 20" leaders in New Delhi, India, and in Hanoi, Vietnam, agreed to significantly upgrade U.S.-Vietnamese relations.

United Nations and US flags fly in front of the United Nations headquarters ahead of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 18, 2023.
Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

It also comes at the White House and Biden's campaign seeks to present him as a global leader providing results for the American leaders -- hard at work -- in contrast, they say, with former President Donald Trump, the front-runner in the Republican primary presidential election. He will meet with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House on Thursday as both men push Congress to approve $24 billion more in funding for Kyiv over the objections of some House Republicans.

While in New York, on Wednesday, Biden will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the White House.

The officials declined to share more information about the long-delayed meeting with Netanyahu or explain why it is taking place on the margins of the annual General Assembly meeting rather than at the White House. Netanyahu returned to power late last year, and Biden has pointedly taken nearly nine months to schedule a meeting with him.

Israeli prime ministers often meet with U.S. counterparts much more quickly; Biden, though, has called Netanyahu's government the most extreme in decades and has offered measured criticism the Israeli prime minister's handling of historic pro-democracy protests in Israel.

In New York, on Tuesday, administration officials said, Biden will also meet with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, as well as with five Central Asian leaders – from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. And on Wednesday, Biden will also meet with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the officials said.

"President Biden is going into this year's General Assembly with the United States confident," an official said. "We have strong allies and new partners; we have a vision for institutional reform at the UN, at the World Bank and elsewhere; and we have initiatives to deliver on infrastructure, on health, on climate and other global public goods."

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