President Biden addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York : NPR

President Biden gives his annual address to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.


President Biden is at the United Nations in New York today. He just gave his annual address laying out his foreign policy agenda to a global audience, urging action on climate change and supporting democracy across the world. Top of mind once again was support for a Ukraine defending itself against Russia.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If you allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure? I’d respectfully suggest the answer is no.

FADEL: There are big questions about how long U.S. support can continue. NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith is there, and she joins us now. Good morning, Tam.


FADEL: So how did President Biden answer that question? And what was the case he was making?

KEITH: Yeah, he argued that the global community has to stand up to aggressors like Russia, lest other nations think that they, too, can get away with violating the principles set out in the U.N. Charter and the sovereignty of others. He didn’t say it, but the undercurrent here is clearly China’s relationship with Taiwan. Biden said the U.S. and its allies will continue to stand with the brave people of Ukraine. This time last year when President Biden spoke at the U.N. the war in Ukraine was relatively new. But the longer it drags on, the harder it gets politically here in the U.S. to sustain financial and military assistance to Ukraine.

FADEL: Yeah, and speaking of that, there is an outstanding request to Congress for more funding for Ukraine. What’s happening with that?

KEITH: Yeah, so the White House has asked Congress for another $24 billion to support Ukraine in its war effort. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is also speaking at the U.N. today, and then he’s headed to Washington later this week to make his own pitch for continued funding. White House officials insist that a bipartisan coalition still exists to keep the funding coming, but have you seen Congress lately? House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing open threats from within his conference to oust him from leadership. The government is set to run out of spending authority at the end of the month. And there is no clear path right now to passing a budget. Many far-right House Republicans are balking at the idea of giving additional money to Ukraine. And so this puts President Biden in this awkward and yet familiar position of standing up once again on the world stage and saying, don’t worry, guys. America is good for it – though all signs point to instability and uncertainty on the domestic political front.

FADEL: Well, let’s talk about that awkward position. I mean, how convincing can President Biden be that America’s back and engaged in the global community when he’s up for reelection in a year and this is what’s happening in Congress?

KEITH: Right. He keeps saying it very passionately. That’s for sure. America is back. But he even admits that other leaders have expressed skepticism to him. You know, the 2024 campaign is heating up. And many of Biden’s would-be opponents, including the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, have very different views of the value of U.S. engagement in the world and the very international institutions that President Biden has invested so much time in boosting during his presidency. They don’t even necessarily agree on what American democracy should look like. Last night, at a fundraiser on Broadway for his campaign, President Biden made this point. He argued that in this election, democracy is quite literally at stake. And at one point, he said, quote, “Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy.” And then today, you have him at the United Nations, talking about democratic values as a model for the world.

FADEL: What else is on the president’s agenda while he’s in New York?

KEITH: He’s meeting with the leaders of five Central Asian nations. He is also meeting with the president of Brazil and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

FADEL: NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith, thank you so much for your time.

KEITH: You’re welcome.

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