Biden to Champion Democracy and Ukraine Support at UNGA Amid Absence of Major Superpowers

President Joe Biden is set to address the United Nations General Assembly this week in a bid to reinforce democracy and garner greater international support for Ukraine. Significantly, this marks the first United Nations summit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be attending in person since the conflict in his country began.

The assembly, expected to assemble leaders from over 145 nations, will be missing four major players as France, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia have all indicated their absence. This leaves the United States with an enhanced opportunity to foster ties with smaller, emerging nations represented at the U.N. summit, but often overlooked in other international forums.

In his address, Biden is likely to demonstrate America’s leadership by outlining efforts undertaken by his administration to work collaboratively with other nations to address the world’s most pressing issues, according to Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser. The conflict in Ukraine is set to be a focal point of Biden’s address, underlining the nation’s commitment to standing against aggression.

Anticipated meetings with world leaders throughout the week further emphasize Biden’s collaborative approach. He is expected to meet with Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who advocates for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, meetings are scheduled with leaders from five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Meeting with all five jointly will be a historic first for a U.S. president. Finally, a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been penciled in, their first since Netanyahu’s re-election the previous fall.

Yet, the U.S. stance in its unwavering support for Ukraine has its complexities. A handful of Republican hardliners in Congress oppose supplying additional funding. The White House is pursuing $24 billion in extra aid to Ukraine, expected to be tied to a continuing resolution to keep the government open as budget discussions continue. Despite Senate bipartisan support, the measure faces resistance in the House of Representatives.

This week will also see Zelenskyy’s scheduled visit to Washington D.C to confer with Biden and lawmakers. Unlike his last trip in December, the Ukrainian President will not address the joint session of Congress, a perspective the administration anticipates. This visit exemplifies Zelenskyy’s unmatched advocacy for Ukraine and an opportunity for the U.S. to aid the nation, according to Sullivan.