Joe Biden Condemns Russia as Threat to the World in U.N. Speech

President Biden portrayed Russia as the chief threat to global peace and renewed warnings that “a nuclear war cannot be won.”President Biden used his first speech at the United Nations since the invasion of Ukraine to accuse one man, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, of seeking to “erase” another nation from the map and of trying to drag the world back to an era of nuclear confrontation.

Hours after Mr. Putin mobilized reservists for Ukraine and issued new threats to deploy Russia’s nuclear arsenal, Mr. Biden drew a sharp contrast between Russia and the West and described a growing competition with China as it pursues its own authoritarian vision.

“Let us speak plainly,” Mr. Biden said as he opened his address to the General Assembly, accusing Mr. Putin of violating the U.N. Charter. “A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor.”

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

“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences,” Mr. Biden went on, the post-World War II order crumbles. “We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression.”

In his speech, Mr. Biden cast the United States and its allies as the protectors of a fragile global order that has endured since World War II.Credit…Dave Sanders

Mr. Biden’s speech, on the second day of the U.N.’s annual gathering of world leaders, came at a moment of extraordinary peril and upheaval, with food shortages, floods, droughts, record heat, a pandemic and inflation. In many of those arenas, the U.N. has seemed either powerless or paralyzed, in part because Russia, as a member of the Security Council, is able to veto resolutions condemning its actions. Mr. Biden seized on the moment to call for U.N. reforms, though few seem imminent.

With war raging in Ukraine, the conflict dominated the annual gathering of world leaders, though Mr. Putin and Xi Jinping of China both skipped the event. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, addressed the General Assembly in a pretaped video, recorded from Ukraine and in English.

“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” Mr. Zelensky said, describing the death and destruction that “Russia provoked with its illegal war.”

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

Earlier this month, as Ukrainian forces seized back territory in Ukraine’s northeast and, bit by bit, in the south, some world leaders thought Mr. Putin might withdraw, declaring he had met his goals.

Instead, hours before the leaders came to the podium of the General Assembly, he doubled down, calling for a mobilization of 300,000 Russian reservist troops and making it clear he had no intention of giving up his quest to eliminate Ukraine as an independent country.

News of Mr. Putin’s combative speech was coming across the mobile phones of leaders and diplomats as they made their way through the blocked-off streets of Manhattan’s East Side. Many were struck by the bluntness of his nuclear threat, which he said was “not a bluff.” Others described it as rooted in despair, as Mr. Putin tries to recover from humiliating retreats.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has mobilized reservists for Ukraine and issued new threats to deploy Russia’s nuclear arsenal.Credit…Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik

“Putin says that he is ready to use all arms at his disposal and when someone says ‘all’ he also means explicitly nuclear arms,” Mr. Borrell said. “This is something that the international community cannot accept. The United Nations this week has to react.”

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

President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran made his debut before the General Assembly on Wednesday, insisting that his country was a model of justice and human rights.
President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran made his debut before the General Assembly on Wednesday, insisting that his country was a model of justice and human rights.Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

He said the United States stood with “the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran, who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights” — a reference to the protests that have erupted in Iran over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by the country’s morality police last week, allegedly for violating dress codes.

And with talks stalled on restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which former President Donald J. Trump abandoned, Mr. Biden implicitly threatened to use force if necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but said that he wanted to prevent conflict.

President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran made his debut before the General Assembly on Wednesday, insisting that his country was a model of justice and human rights.
President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran made his debut before the General Assembly on Wednesday, insisting that his country was a model of justice and human rights.Credit…Dave Sanders

He said the United States stood with “the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran, who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights” — a reference to the protests that have erupted in Iran over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by the country’s morality police last week, allegedly for violating dress codes.

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And with talks stalled on restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which former President Donald J. Trump abandoned, Mr. Biden implicitly threatened to use force if necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but said that he wanted to prevent conflict.

President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar spoke to the General Assembly on Wednesday, calling on developed nations to do more in the fight against climate change.
President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar spoke to the General Assembly on Wednesday, calling on developed nations to do more in the fight against climate change.Credit…Dave Sanders

“Africa’s young people, the entire continent, are waiting for polluting countries to comply with promises made,” President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar told the assembly.

Mr. Biden acknowledged that debt at the start of a meeting on Wednesday afternoon with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, telling Mr. Guterres that “great polluting nations of the world like ours owe an obligation to the nations that are suffering the consequences of global warming.”

Mr. Biden met Wednesday with the new British prime minister, Liz Truss, discussing the war and a trade dispute stemming from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, which Mr. Biden has warned could jeopardize a longstanding peace accord in Northern Ireland. The president also met with President Emmanuel Macron of France and delivered remarks to the Global Fund on the worldwide fight against H.I.V./AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Mr. Zelensky’s address aired soon after Mr. Biden finished at the Global Fund, returning the day’s focus to Mr. Putin and the damage inflicted by the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky called on the United Nations to hold Russia accountable by creating a special tribunal and said Russia should be deprived of its veto right in the U.N. Security Council.

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

Michael Crowley, Alan Yuhas and Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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