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Strongly denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, United States President Joe Biden warned United Nations Member States on Wednesday that “if a nation can pursue imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this great institution stands for.”
At the opening of a wide-ranging address to the UN General Assembly, President Biden said that amid countless upheavals the world had witnessed over the past year – from extreme weather events to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and rolling food and fuel shortages – “a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded his neighbor … attempted to erase a sovereign State from the map.”
“Russia,” he continued, “has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations Charter … and “just today [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe in reckless disregard of the global non-proliferation regime.” Mr. Biden also said Russia was “right now” calling up more soldiers and preparing a “sham” referendum on the annexation of lands it already occupied in eastern Ukraine.
“The world should see these acts for what they are … no one has threatened Russia. Russia sought this conflict. One man sought this brutal, senseless war,” the US President said: “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a State, plain and simple, and [Ukrainian’s] right to exist as a people.”
“Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe… That should make your blood run cold,” he continued, adding that the General Assembly had condemned Russia’s aggression “and over 140 countries in this room today” supported a General Assembly condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine, while the US had marshalled massive levels of support for the country, more than $25 million to date. Mr. Biden said that his country had warned about the invasion and worked hard to avert war.
“Like many of you, the US wants this war to end and end on just terms,” and urged UN Member States to be “clear and unwavering in your resolve” to uphold the tenets of the Charter that Ukraine has the same rights as any other sovereign nation. “We stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period…you cannot seize another country’s territory by force. The only country doing that is Russia.”
President Biden went on to say that the US would continue to champion and defend democracy around the world because he believed democracy to be “the greatest instrument to address the challenges of our time” and he would work within the G7 and with other likeminded countries “to prove that democracies can deliver for their citizens and deliver for the world.”
“This institution, guided by the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is at its core an act of dauntless hope, and the US would always champion human rights, “the basis for all we seek to achieve.” The future will be won by those countries that unleash the full potential of their populations.”
But he warned that even as the Assembly was meeting “the UN Charter, the very basis of stable international order, is under attack by those who wish to tear it down or distort it for their own advantage.” As such, the US would continue standing up for the principles of the UN. “This is the responsibility of every Member State.”
At the same time, the US believed that the UN should undertake more measures to reform its processes and working methods and particularly for it to “become more inclusive so it can become more representative of the world in which we live.”
He added that the Security Council must be similarly reformed to include more permanent and non-permanent members from. Security Council members should also “consistently defend the UN Charter” and “refrain from the use of the veto except in rare, extraordinary situations.”
“Let me be direct about the competition between the United States and China,” President Biden said. “As we manage shifting geopolitical trends, the United States will conduct itself as a reasonable leader. We do not seek conflict; we do not seek a cold war. We do not ask any nation to choose between the United States or any other partner. But the United States will be unabashed and promoting our vision of a free, open, secure and prosperous world and what we have to offer communities of nations.”
On Taiwan, he said that the US sought to uphold stability and peace across the Straights and added that “we continue to oppose unilateral changes in the status quo by either side.”
The 77th session of the UN General Assembly opened on Tuesday with its new president urging world leaders to respond to humanity’s most pressing challenges, including the war in Ukraine, by working together and building bridges across what are “deep divides”.
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