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Biden in United Nations address urges leaders to back Ukraine as consistent with charter

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U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 19, 2023.

Mike Segar | Reuters

President Joe Biden forcefully urged members of the United Nations to support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion in a speech at the General Assembly on Tuesday, arguing that not doing so would be a violation of the group’s charter.

“Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence,” Biden said.

“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?” Biden said.

“The answer is no. We must stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow.”

Biden addressed the leaders of at least 145 countries. Among them was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was there in person for the first time since the war began in February 2022.

Zelenskyy gave a prerecorded speech to the General Assembly at last year’s session.

Four out of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council chose to skip the conference this year. France, the U.K., China and Russia were all absent. The U.S. is the only member of that council present.

During his address, Biden reiterated his call from last year’s session to expand the Security Council.

“We need to be able to break the gridlock that too often stymies progress and blocks consensus on the council,” Biden said. “We need more voices, more perspectives at the table.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sits with the Ukranian delegation next to the U.S. delegation during the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 19, 2023.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Biden said the U.S. “strongly” supports Ukraine as it looks for a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the war and stressed, “Russia alone — Russia alone — bears responsibility for this war.”

“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,” Biden said to loud applause.

Biden’s rallying cry is complicated, however, by the fact that a handful of hard-line Republicans in Congress are actively opposing more defense funding for Ukraine.

The White House is seeking $24 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, which it hoped would be passed alongside a continuing resolution to keep the government open while budget negotiations continue. The measure has bipartisan support in the Senate but is held up in the House of Representatives.

In his speech at the U.N., Biden also stressed the importance of democracy.

“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’re working to show how democracy can deliver in ways that matter to people’s lives.”

Biden advocated for the continued existence of international institutions like the U.N., pointing to the necessity of global collaboration to tackle challenges such as climate change.

“The United States seeks a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable world for all people, because we know our future is bound up with yours. And no nation can meet the challenges of today alone.”

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