Sept. 21 (UPI) — In his keynote address at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, President Joe Biden condemned Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and said President Vladimir Putin is acting aggressively and irresponsibly by threatening to use nuclear weapons.
Biden made the remarks at U.N. headquarters in New York City as part of the General Debate.
The American president immediately went after Putin and said Russia has violated the tenets of the United Nations by going to war with Ukraine in February. Over the last several months, thousands of soldiers and civilians have died and there seems to be no end in sight.
Biden called the military aggression “outrageous” and pushed the United Nations to push back against Moscow’s military campaign and support Ukraine.
“The world should see these outrageous acts for what they are,” Biden said. “Putin claimed he had to act because Russia was threatened. No one threatened Russia and no one other than Russia sought conflict. In fact, we warned he was coming.”
The American president pointed to Russian attacks that have targeted civilian centers, residential areas, schools, hospitals, rail stations and the center of Ukrainian history and culture — and said evidence of war crimes is everywhere.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple,” he added. “That should make your blood run cold.”
Biden noted that many U.N. members have already shown support, as 141 countries have condemned Russia for the war and dozens have given billions in emergency aid.
Russia and Putin, he went on, must pay — or else it will only motivate other autocratic regimes to act in a similar fashion in the future.
“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this institution stands for,” he said. “This past year, the world was tested as well. We did not hesitate. We chose liberty. We chose sovereignty. We stood with Ukraine.”
“Like you, the United States wants this war to end, on just terms,” he told the General Assembly. “On terms, we all signed up for. You cannot seize a nation’s territory by force. The only country that is standing in the way of that is Russia.”
In a rare national address on Wednesday, Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons in the conflict and said he was partially mobilizing hundreds of thousands of reservists in Russia to bolster the military in Ukraine. It’s believed to be the first troop mobilization in Russia since World War II.
“I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and some components are more modern than those of the NATO countries,” Putin said.
“And at the threat to the territorial integrity of our country, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. It’s not a bluff.”
In his address at the U.N. General Assembly, Biden borrowed a phrase from former President Ronald Reagan.
“Today, [Russia] is making irresponsible nuclear threats to use nuclear weapons. China is conducting an unprecedented concerning nuclear buildup without any transparency.
“Despite our efforts against serious and sustained diplomacy [North] Korea continues to blatantly violate U.N. sanctions. While the United States is prepared for a mutual return to the [Iran nuclear deal] if Iran steps up to its obligations, the United States is clear, we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Putin will not speak at the General Assembly, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will. He was scheduled to give his address during the afternoon session on Wednesday.
In his speech, Putin also promised to keep fighting in Ukraine until Moscow’s top objectives are achieved, seemingly quashing any hope for a near-term solution.
In his speech, Zelensky is expected to deliver a strong rebuke to Moscow — particularly in light of Putin’s aggressive speech on Wednesday.
“Russia has left behind here the only thing it is capable of — destruction,” Zelensky said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Following his address, Biden had other events scheduled on the sidelines of the General Assembly. He was scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Liz Truss and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Later, Biden will address the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference and then host a reception at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.