By Steve Holland
NEW YORK (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden appealed to world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday to stand with Ukraine against Russian invaders, hoping Republicans in Congress will also take notice.
“Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence,” Biden said in his speech to UNGA. “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?”
Biden drew applause when saying that the United States and its allies would stand with Ukraine’s fight for freedom. “Russia alone bears responsibility for this war,” the president said. “Russia alone has the power to end this war immediately.”
Biden’s address at the annual gathering was the centerpiece event of his three-day visit to New York, which will include meetings with the heads of five Central Asian nations, and the leaders of Israel and Brazil.
Biden, a Democrat, has made rallying U.S. allies to support Ukraine a leading component of U.S. foreign policy, arguing the world must send a clear signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he will not be able to outlast the West.
Biden has faced criticism from some Republicans who want the United States to spend less money on the war effort.
Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, has vowed to seek a quick end to the war if returned to power.
Trump has voiced skepticism about Washington’s engagement with traditional allies, including NATO, and has been complimentary of Putin.
House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the leading Republican in Washington, has questioned whether the United States should keep sending billions of dollars in weaponry to Ukraine.
In his speech, Biden said Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and occupation of territory violated the founding U.N. Charter, a main principle of which is respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
His remarks echoed those of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who in his opening speech to UNGA on Tuesday said Russia’s invasion “has unleashed a nexus of horror.”
A Biden administration official said Biden and U.S. officials would also focus at the U.N. meetings on mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development and fighting climate change.
Solid majorities of Americans support providing weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia and believe that such aid demonstrates to China and other U.S. rivals a will to protect U.S. interests and allies, according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey in June.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who attended and applauded Biden’s remarks ahead of his own speech at UNGA on Tuesday, was expected to visit Biden at the White House on Thursday and to meet some congressional leaders as well.
The United States is preparing a new military aid package for Ukraine to coincide with Zelenskiy’s visit, and Congress has been asked to approve billions of dollars more in security assistance for the rest of the year.
“We have confidence that there will be bipartisan support for this. I think President Zelenskiy does as well,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.
After his speech, Biden was due to sit down with Guterres to discuss world hot spots.
Later, he will attend a summit with the presidents of five Central Asian nations, a first. They are Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
On Wednesday, Biden will meet Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and join him in an event with labor leaders from Brazil and the United States.
Also on Wednesday, Biden will have his first face-to-face meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since Netanyahu regained power last December.
Sullivan said they would discuss “a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region, as well as to compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran.”
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons, Grant McCool and Howard Goller)
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