The leaders of the U.S., Ukraine and Iran addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday as the world faces multiple deepening crises.
President Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy both fiercely denounce Russia’s ongoing invasion as the worst threat to peace and security in a generation.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” the American president said. “Whoever you are… that should make your blood run cold.”
Biden’s speech was part of an effort to maintain Russia’s isolation on the global stage as the costs of war mount, worries about energy this winter loom and Congress is likely to look more skeptically on spending more on military defense. The president called on all nations, whether democracies or autocracies, to speak out against Russia’s “brutal, needless war” and to bolster’s Ukraine effort to defend itself.
“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period,” Biden said.
During his time at the U.N. General Assembly, Biden met with Secretary-General António Guterres and held his first meeting with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, during which they discussed Russia’s war, energy security and China. He also met with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Speaking by video to the U.N. General Assembly meeting of world leaders hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement, Zelenskyy insisted his country would prevail in repelling Russia’s attack and forcing its troops out.
“We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms,” the president said. “But we need time.”
Putin, who is not attending the event, has said he sent his armed forces into Ukraine because of risks to his country’s security from what he considers a hostile government in Kyiv; to liberate Russians living in Ukraine — especially its eastern Donbas region — from what he views as the Ukrainian government’s oppression; and to restore what he considers to be Russia’s historical territorial claims on the country.
Zelenskyy’s speech was striking not only for its contents but also for its context. It took place after the extraordinary mobilization announcement. It was the first time he addressed the world’s leaders gathered together since Russia invaded in February.
The war in the heart of Europe is front and center for the world body as it has already caused a global spike in food and energy prices, which could, in turn, plunge the world economy into a recession. The invasion has also raised fears of a nuclear disaster as fighting rages near Europe’s largest nuclear plant near the front lines in partially Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.
Leaders from scores of other countries are hoping to prevent a wider conflict and prevent the conflict from spreading to other flashpoints in Europe, with some like Turkey positioning themselves as neutral arbiters.
But there is little hope for progress towards an end to the hostilities as both sides are determined to make progress on the battlefield before coming to the table with meaningful compromise proposals.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi insisted Wednesday that his country is serious about reviving a deal meant to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear bomb but questioned whether Tehran could trust America’s commitment to any eventual accord.
After former President Donald Trump walked away from the deal brokered by the Obama administration in 2018, Tehran steadily abandoned every limitation the accord imposed on its nuclear enrichments, but efforts to salvage the deal are now nearing a take-it-or-leave-it inflection point.
In exchange for agreeing to the terms of the new nuclear deal, Iran would receive relief on economic sanctions and be given greater access to global financial markets and the flow of U.S. dollars.
“There is a great and serious will to resolve all issues” in the nuclear talks, Raisi said, but he added: “Our wish is only one thing: observance of commitments.”
Despite the array of seemingly intractable problems, some leaders saw signs of hope as the UNGA returned fully in person as the pandemic eases.
“For each and every one of us, the U.N. is a unique platform for dialogue and for cooperation,” Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said.
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. spoke of his country being an “optimistic” nation for whom “solutions are within our collective grasp.”
“As humanity strives to defend freedom and build lasting peace, the U.N.’s role is indispensable,” said South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
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