Biden’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly came hours after Putin announced an expansion of his war effort, lending the annual address Cold War-style gravity as Biden sought to rally nations behind his effort to isolate and punish Russia.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state and Ukrainians’ right to exist as a people,” Biden told the international body. “That should make your blood run cold.”
Speaking inside the soaring General Assembly hall, Biden called the seven-month-old invasion a “brutal, needless war” that amounts to a “shameless violation” of the United Nations charter.
“Putin claims he had to act because Russia was threatened, but no one threatened Russia and no one other than Russia sought conflict,” Biden said in his speech.
Biden accused Putin of making “irresponsible nuclear threats” in his speech, and declared “a nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought.”
“Let us speak plainly: A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map,” he said.
Hours earlier, in his 20-minute speech, Putin warned he would use “all the means at our disposal” if he deemed the “territorial integrity” of Russia to be jeopardized. The mobilization means citizens who are in the reserve could be called up, and those with military experience would be subject to conscription, Putin said, adding that the necessary decree had already been signed and took effect on Wednesday.
In response, Biden said Putin was waging a war meant to demolish the Ukrainian nation.
“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period,” he said.
Biden warned that the basis of the United Nations’ charter is “under attack” amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, which he cast as a “shameless” violation of the body’s founding document.
“As we meet today, the UN charter’s very basis of a stable and just rule-based order is under attack by those who wish to tear it down or distort it for their own political advantage,” Biden said, noting that the 1945 charter was negotiated by citizens “united in their commitment to work for peace.”
Putin’s escalation came after stunning Russian setbacks in the war, which has dragged on for more than six months. Biden, who has led efforts to isolate Russia and supply Ukraine with advanced weaponry, had already been planning to underscore those efforts in Wednesday’s speech.
Putin’s national address, which occurred after Biden had arrived in New York late Tuesday, caused White House aides to update some of the language in Biden’s speech, according to an official. But a total rewrite wasn’t necessary because White House officials had anticipated some of what Putin would say.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also planned to address the UN later on Wednesday.
After making his debut UN address last year under the cloud of a messy Afghanistan withdrawal and stalled domestic ambitions, Biden’s aides believed he entered his sophomore outing with a stronger hand.
“We believe that the President heads to New York with the wind at his back,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, citing a mostly-united western alliance and recent wins on the domestic front, including a historic investment in fighting climate change.
Questions about US leadership
Even as Biden proclaimed renewed US leadership Wednesday, deeper questions persist over his ability to maintain that position in the years ahead, as fears of a global recession looms and threats to American democracy fester.
Biden has spent ample time underscoring those threats in recent weeks, primarily for a domestic audience but with foreign capitals also listening intently. He has recounted in recent speeches sitting around a table at last year’s Group of 7 summit in Cornwall, England, telling fellow leaders that “America is back.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, Biden…