Russian president Vladimir Putin and China President Xi Jinping declined to attend the event for the second year in a row.
French president Emmanuel Macron, British prime minister Rishi Sunak and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi – whose country is engulfed in a scandal over the alleged murder of a Sikh separatist leader – were also notably absent.
In the audience, however, was Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, who was set to address the meeting for the first time since Russia invaded his country.
Amid growing signs that support for Kyiv may be waning as the brutal war enters its 20th month, Biden vowed to continue standing with Ukraine as it defended its sovereignty and territorial integrity, telling the General Assembly: “Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalise Ukraine without consequence.
“But I ask you this: If we abandon the core principles of the UN Charter to appease an aggressor, can any member state feel confident that they are protected? If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?
“The answer is no. We must stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow.”
The president’s comments were designed to present him as a global leader whose work on the international stage stands in contrast to former President Donald Trump, the current the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to run for the White House again next year.
But it also comes as Biden faces domestic challenges at home, from record low approval ratings, an impeachment inquiry into his family business dealings, and a fickle economy.
The president will meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House on Thursday as both leaders urge Congress to approve $24 billion more in funding, despite the objections of some House Republicans.
On Wednesday, he will also have bilateral meetings with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
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