Strongly denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, United States President Joe Biden warned United Nations Member States on Wednesday that “if a nation can pursue imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this great institution stands for.”

At the opening of a wide-ranging address to the UN General Assembly, President Biden said that amid countless upheavals the world had witnessed over the past year – from extreme weather events to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and rolling food and fuel shortages – “a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded his neighbor … attempted to erase a sovereign State from the map.”

“Russia,” he continued, “has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations Charter … and “just today [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe in reckless disregard of the global non-proliferation regime.” Mr. Biden also said Russia was “right now” calling up more soldiers and preparing a “sham” referendum on the annexation of lands it already occupied in eastern Ukraine.  

‘Brutal, senseless war’

“The world should see these acts for what they are … no one has threatened Russia. Russia sought this conflict. One man sought this brutal, senseless war,” the US President said: “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a State, plain and simple, and [Ukrainian’s] right to exist as a people.”

“Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe… That should make your blood run cold,” he continued, adding that the General Assembly had condemned Russia’s aggression “and over 40 countries in this room today” were contributing billions to support Ukraine. Mr, Biden said that his country had warned about the invasion and worked hard to avert war.  

“Like many of you, the US wants this war to end and end on just terms,” and urged UN Member States to be “clear and unwavering in your resolve” to uphold the tenets of the Charter that Ukraine has the same rights as any other sovereign nation. “We stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period…you cannot seize another country’s territory by force. The only country doing that is Russia.”

Expand democracy and human rights to ‘win the future’

President Biden went on to say that the US would continue to champion and defend democracy around the world because he believed democracy to be “the greatest instrument to address the challenges of our time” and he would work within the G7 and with other like-minded countries “to prove that democracies can deliver for their citizens and deliver for the world.”   

But he warned that even as the General Assembly was meeting “the UN Charter, the very basis of stable international order is under attack by those who wish to tear it down or distort it for their own advantage.” As such, the US would continue standing up for the principles of the UN. “This is the responsibility of every Member State.”