US President Joe Biden speaks at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in New York City on September 19, 2023.

Mike Segar | Reuters

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

“Russia believes the world will grow tired and allow Ukraine to be brutalized without consequence,” Biden said.

“But I ask you this: If we abandon the fundamental principles of the UN Charter to appease an aggressor, can any member state be confident that it will be protected? If we allow Ukraine to be divided, is a nation’s independence assured?” Biden said.

“The answer is no. We must withstand this naked aggression today in order to deter other potential aggressors tomorrow.”

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

Zelensky gave a recorded speech to the General Assembly at last year’s session.

Four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have decided to skip the conference this year. France, Britain, China and Russia were all absent. The United States is the only member of this council present.

In his address, Biden repeated his call from last year’s meeting to expand the Security Council.

“We must be able to break the gridlock that too often impedes progress and blocks consensus in the Council,” Biden said. “We need more voices, more perspectives at the table.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sits with the Ukrainian delegation next to the U.S. delegation during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in New York City on September 19, 2023.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Biden said the US “strongly” supports Ukraine in finding a peaceful diplomatic solution to the war and stressed: “Russia alone – Russia alone – bears responsibility for this war.”

“The United States, along with our allies and partners around the world, will continue to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity — and their freedom,” Biden said to loud applause.

But Biden’s rallying cry is complicated by the fact that a handful of hardline Republicans in Congress are actively opposing more defense funding for Ukraine.

The White House is requesting $24 billion in additional aid to Ukraine and hopes it will pass along with 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.

In his speech to the United Nations, Biden also emphasized the importance of democracy.

“We will not deviate from the values ​​that make us strong,” Biden said. “We will defend democracy, our best tool for addressing the challenges we face around the world, and we are working to show how democracy can work in ways that matter in people’s lives.”

Biden argued for the continued existence of international institutions such as the UN and cited the need for global cooperation to address challenges such as climate change.

“The United States strives for a safer, more prosperous, and more just world for all people because we know that our future is linked to yours. And no nation can meet today’s challenges alone.”

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