At U.N. General Assembly, Biden calls for support for Ukraine, condemns Putin's 'reckless' nuclear threat

NEW YORK — In an impassioned speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, President Biden slammed Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and called on allied nations to give more support to Ukraine to combat the invasion, which he said was a threat to all democracy.

“A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map,” Biden said, calling Russia’s war “brutal” and unwarranted. “Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations Charter.”

Biden’s speech to the 77th U.N. General Assembly comes seven months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. More than 29,000 people have died and another 14 million have been displaced, according to Reuters’s latest figures. And though Russia has already taken over a fifth of Ukraine, a recent Ukrainian counterattack has pushed Russian troops back, allowing Ukraine to retake control of more than 2,300 square miles from Russia. Since the war began in February, the U.S. has sent more than $15 billion of military aid to Ukraine for equipment and weapons.

President Biden gives an address.
President Biden speaks at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. (Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Biden used Wednesday’s speech to encourage allies at the U.N. to further arm Ukrainian forces, whose active military personnel of 500,000 soldiers is nearly one-third the size of Russia’s 1.35 million troops.

“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” Biden said. “Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe … that should make your blood run cold.”

The message came on a day when Russian President Vladimir Putin made his own bold move — announcing a partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists to the military. The sudden decision is seen as part of an attempt to absorb occupied parts of Ukraine into Russia itself, which could happen as soon as next week. In a rare videotaped address Wednesday, Putin accused the U.S. and Europe of “nuclear blackmail” and warned that Russia has nuclear weapons of its own.

“The territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I will emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal,” he said. “And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction.”

President Vladimir Putin at the microphone.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia addresses a meeting of leaders of Russia's military-industrial complex at the Kremlin on Tuesday. (Contributor/Getty Images)

In a further warning to other countries ready to challenge Russia, Putin made a direct declaration.

“To those who allow themselves such statements about Russia, 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,” he said.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” he added. “This is not a bluff.”

Biden called this threat “irresponsible” and, in contrast, called for unity in the face of contempt, saying that Russia’s war in Ukraine violates the core ideals of the U.N.

“A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought,” Biden said. “Let’s stand together again, declare the unmistakable resolve. The nations of the world are united still.”