Over 140 heads of state and government are on the speaker list. © Michael Kappeler/dpa
The war is still raging in Ukraine. President Zelensky is calling for support in the UN general debate – his most important ally makes it clear: If Kiev isn’t safe, no one is.
“The world must confront naked aggression today to deter other potential aggressors of tomorrow,” Biden said at the start of the general debate at the UN General Assembly in New York in the presence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Biden invoked the solidarity of the 193 UN member states: “If we allow Ukraine to be dismembered, is the independence of any nation safe? The answer is no.” On Wednesday night (CEST), a speech by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) was also on the agenda at the General Assembly.
The largest diplomatic meeting in the world comes at a time when the Ukraine war has been going on for more than a year and a half. In some parts of the world, support for Kiev is beginning to wear thin.
Biden warned against giving in to this. “Russia believes that the world is getting tired of allowing it to brutalize Ukraine without consequences.” But if basic international principles are abandoned “to appease an aggressor, can any member state feel confident that it is protected?” Polish President Andrzej Duda also warned with regard to the war in the neighboring country: “Today Ukraine is the victim. Tomorrow it could be any of us.”
Biden did not mention concerns about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan in his speech. Beijing considers the democratic island to be part of its territory. However, Biden once again emphasized that the United States is not seeking conflict with China.
Selenskyjs Chance in New York
Zelensky, who wore an olive green military-style polo shirt during the general debate, arrived in New York the day before for the first time since Russia’s war of aggression against his country began in February 2022. Immediately after arriving with his wife Olena Zelenska, Zelensky visited a hospital in the Staten Island district where wounded Ukrainian soldiers are being treated.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj follows the speeches at the general debate at the UN General Assembly. © Michael Kappeler/dpa
He will give several important speeches at the United Nations on Manhattan’s East River. The 45-year-old was expected to promote support for the war against Russia, its conditions for peace and Kiev’s ideas for a war crimes tribunal. Zelenskyj had recently taken part in several summits – G7, NATO, EU. The UN General Assembly is the biggest stage for him and is seen as a great opportunity for the Ukrainian to convince skeptical countries of his course.
Other people’s worries
However, many states, especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia, would like greater attention to be paid to their problems and to the main topic actually targeted by the United Nations: new cooperation on an equal footing between industrialized and developing countries. Biden also advocated giving economically weaker countries more say and weight in international institutions.
Many of the leaders of the so-called Global South want peace in Ukraine – this is evident in the mediation attempts of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who spoke before Biden in the domed hall of the General Assembly. In his speech, which was primarily characterized by concerns about the effects of climate change, Lula insisted on peace talks for Ukraine. “We do not underestimate the difficulties of achieving peace. But no solution will last unless it is based on dialogue,” he said. Lula recently said in an interview that the war in Ukraine was tiring humanity.
Showdown with Russia in the Security Council?
Zelensky and the Ukraine war will continue to dominate the diplomatic meeting in New York in the next few days: the most powerful UN body, the 15-member Security Council, is scheduled to meet on Wednesday. There the Ukrainian president could meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the first time since Russia’s invasion.
Ukrainian President Zelensky is scheduled to speak at the United Nations headquarters for the first time since the beginning of the war against his country. © Michael Kappeler/dpa
In view of the war’s frustration, Zelensky must also credibly explain why he is currently rejecting talks with Russia. It was unclear how he would respond to expectations, especially from the so-called Global South, about a de-escalation of the war.
Meeting on the sidelines?
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock does not expect a meeting with Lavrov on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Last year, her Russian counterpart’s interest in such a meeting was zero, said the Green politician.
On the sidelines of the UN general debate, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) once again called on Russia to end the war against Ukraine. He causes “terrible destruction”. Scholz wanted to meet with Zelenskyj in New York on Wednesday. The Ukrainian could once again push for a delivery of Taurus cruise missiles.
Annalena Baerbock, Olaf Scholz, and Steffi Lemke follow US President Biden’s speech at the general debate at the UN General Assembly. © Michael Kappeler/dpa
From New York, Zelenskyj wants to travel on to Washington, where he has appointments on Thursday. He was recently received like a hero in the US capital shortly before Christmas. Since then, the situation has changed there too: Republicans are in charge in the US House of Representatives, and there is some skepticism among them as to whether the US should continue to pump money into a war on a large scale.
UN chief Guterres: The world is falling apart
At the opening of the general debate, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned of a division of the world. There are deep divides between the largest economic and military powers, between East and West and between rich states and developing countries. “Our world is falling apart.” dpa
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