, 2022-09-21 09:00:00,
President Joe Biden returns to the green-marbled United Nations stage Wednesday hours after Russia’s president announced in a provocative speech an escalation in his war effort in Ukraine, setting up a rhetorical showdown between the two leaders on the international stage.
Biden had already planned to make the Ukraine war a centerpiece of his yearly UN address, with aides previewing a harsh message for Moscow. But President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he is ordering a “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens in the Ukraine war and again raising the specter of using nuclear weapons dramatically increases the stakes for Biden’s address.
In his 20-minute speech, Putin warned he would use “all the means at our disposal” if he deemed the “territorial integrity” of Russia to be jeopardized.
The mobilization means citizens who are in the reserve could be called up, and those with military experience would be subject to conscription, Putin said, adding that the necessary decree had already been signed and took effect on Wednesday.
The escalation came after stunning Russian setbacks in the war, which has dragged on for more than six months. Biden, who has led efforts to isolate Russia and supply Ukraine with advanced weaponry, had been planning to underscore those efforts in Wednesday’s speech. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also planned to address the UN on Wednesday.
He expects to offer a “firm rebuke of Russia’s unjust war in Ukraine,” according to his national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and deliver “a call to the world to continue to stand against the naked aggression that we’ve seen these past several months.”
Still, Putin’s pugilistic speech hours ahead of Biden’s address dramatically illustrated the challenges that lie ahead. The combined effects of the prolonged conflict and economic uncertainty have created a dark mood among world leaders gathering in New York this week for the annual high-level UN meetings.
After making his debut UN address last year under the cloud of a messy Afghanistan withdrawal and stalled domestic ambitions, Biden’s aides believe he enters his sophomore outing with a stronger hand.
“We believe that the President heads to New York with the wind at his back,” Sullivan told…
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