Biden paints Russia as a threat to the world in UN speech

President Biden used his first speech at the United Nations since the invasion of Ukraine to accuse a man, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, of seeking to “delete” another country. off the map and try to drag the world back to the epoch. of nuclear confrontation.

Hours after Putin deployed reservists to Ukraine and issued fresh threats to deploy Russia’s nuclear arsenal, Biden drew a stark contrast between Russia and the West, and at the same time describes growing competition with China as it pursues its authoritarian vision.

“Let’s be clear,” Biden said at the opening of his address to the General Assembly, accusing Putin of violating the UN Charter. “A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has invaded its neighbour.”

Mr. Biden added that the war is about “extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state”.

Biden continued: “If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequence, the post-World War II order will collapse. “We will unite against Russian aggression.”

The scope and harshness of Mr. Biden’s attacks on Mr. Putin was startling; they appear to be the most direct and lasting focus on a single opponent of an American president at the United Nations since 2002, when President George W. Bush called Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government a “mushroom” grave and dangerous”.

Mr. Biden told leaders “we are not looking for a Cold War” or asked other countries to choose between the United States and “any other partner.”

However, the world he describes has the echoes of the Cold War era. Mr Biden sees the US and its allies as custodians of the fragile global order that has existed since World War II, and seeks to reassert US leadership on existential issues like hot temperatures. increase and the food supply decreases. And he portrayed Russia as the main threat to global peace, describing the Russian leader’s warnings just hours earlier as an “irresponsible nuclear threat” and warning him not to follow.

“A nuclear war cannot be won,” Biden said, “and must never be fought.”

That phrase, used by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1985, was repeated by all the major nuclear powers in a joint statement on January 3, just seven weeks before the invasion of Putin raised the biggest concerns about the use of nuclear weapons since the Cuban Missile Crisis, 60 years ago.

Mr. Biden’s speech, on the second day of the UN’s annual meeting of world leaders, comes at a time of extreme danger and turmoil, with food shortages, floods, droughts, droughts and food shortages. drought, record heat, pandemic and inflation. In many of those arenas, the UN seems powerless or paralyzed, in part because Russia, as a member of the Security Council, can veto resolutions condemning its actions. Mr. Biden has seized the right moment to call for reform of the United Nations, even though it seems very little.

With war raging in Ukraine, conflict has dominated the annual gathering of world leaders, although Putin and China’s Xi Jinping both omitted the event. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, addressed the General Assembly in a pre-edited video, filmed from Ukraine and in English.

“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand punishment, a description of the death and destruction that ‘Russia has caused with its illegal war’,” Zelensky said.

Mr Zelensky said the world must continue “to unite around one man fighting against armed aggression.”

Earlier this month, as Ukrainian forces recaptured territory in northeastern Ukraine and little by little in the south, some world leaders thought Mr. Putin might pull back, claiming he had achieved its goal.

Instead, hours before the leaders stepped onto the General Assembly podium, he doubled down, calling for the mobilization of 300,000 Russian reservists and making it clear that he had no intention of abandoning the task of eliminating Ukraine as an independent country.

News of Putin’s war speech reached leaders and diplomats’ cell phones as they made their way through the blockaded streets of Manhattan’s East Side. Many were struck by the bluntness of his nuclear threat, which he said was “not a hoax.” Others describe it as rooted in despair, as Mr Putin tries to recover from humiliating retreats.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview on Wednesday that Putin’s comments reflect how badly he miscalculated in invading Ukraine.

“He made a mistake, he underestimated the situation and he is desperate,” Mr. Scholz said.

The allies were largely stuck together.

The European Commission’s vice-president, Josep Borrell, has announced new sanctions against Moscow, although the list of available options is dwindling, before its full expulsion from global transactions. the world’s 11th largest economy last year. Borrell said he would convene an extraordinary meeting of European foreign ministers in New York to discuss developments.

“Putin says he’s ready to use all the weapons at his disposal and when someone says ‘all’ he clearly means nuclear weapons,” Borrell said. “This is something that the international community cannot accept. The United Nations this week must respond.”

Mr. Biden also criticized the governments of Iran and China over their human rights records.

He said the United States stands with “the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who are now protesting to secure their fundamental rights” – a reference to the protests that have broken out in Iran on the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by the country’s ethics police last week, accused of violating the dress code.

And with talks stalled over reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned, Biden tacitly threatened to use force if necessary to prevent Iran from developing weapons. nuclear, but said he wanted to prevent conflict.

“We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” Biden said, adding, “I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome.”

Earlier, on Wednesday, Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, made his debut before the General Assembly, stressing that his country is a model of justice and human rights.

Mr. Raisi’s remarks, in a lengthy speech that interspersed with religious lectures and political rhetoric, made no mention of the widespread anti-government protests that have sparked a crackdown by the authorities. as the young woman’s death had aroused them.

Several heads of state have recounted the effects of climate change on impoverished people around the world, including cyclones in Madagascar, drought in the Horn of Africa and floods in Pakistan.

Mr. Biden spoke of $370 billion in new spending and tax incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that he signed into law last month as proof of America’s leadership in combating climate change. Queen. And he announced new $2.9 billion in US spending to tackle global food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by both the war in Ukraine and climate change.

But leaders from Africa and elsewhere have used their speeches to push wealthy nations to do more, faster, to stem a rise in global temperatures.

Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina said: “The young people of Africa, the whole continent, are waiting for the polluting countries to fulfill the promises they have made.

Mr. Biden acknowledged that debt at the start of a meeting Wednesday afternoon with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, telling Mr Guterres that “the world’s major polluters like ours have obligations to with countries that are suffering the consequences of global warming.”

Mr. Biden on Wednesday met with Britain’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, to discuss the war and trade dispute stemming from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, which Mr. Biden has warned could be dangerous for a longstanding peace treaty in Northern Ireland. The President also met with President Emmanuel Macron of France and delivered a speech to the Global Fund on the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide.

Zelensky’s speech was broadcast shortly after Biden wrapped up a meeting at the Global Fund, shifting the focus of the day to Putin and the damage caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky called on the United Nations to hold Russia accountable by setting up a special tribunal and said Russia should be stripped of its veto power in the UN Security Council.

“Russia should pay for this war,” he said, “with its own assets.”

Michael Crowley, Alan Yuhas and Edward Wong contribution report.

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