President Joe Biden on Tuesday kicks off a packed two days of foreign policy at the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, seeking to show his leadership on the world stage and commitment to the importance of the forum for international cooperation in the face of high-profile absences from other world leaders.
“The United States seeks a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable world for all people, because we know our future is bound up with yours," Biden is set to say, according to excerpts of his speech provided by the White House. "And no nation can meet the challenges of today alone.”
In a call with reporters to preview the trip, senior administration officials said that over the next two days, Biden will look to strengthen global support for Ukraine, secure increased cooperation in addressing the climate crisis and build on initiatives announced at this month’s Group of 20 summit, including mobilizing financial resources for developing countries.
On climate, Biden will point to current climate events -- floods, droughts, heat waves and more -- in an effort to preview what could happen should the world fail to reach its climate goals.
"Record breaking heat waves in the United States and China. Wildfires ravaging North America and Southern Europe. A fifth year of drought in the Horn of Africa. Tragic flooding in Libya that has killed thousands of people," the president is set to say. "Taken together these snapshots tell an urgent story of what awaits us if we fail to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and begin to climate-proof our world. From day one of my Administration the United States has treated this crisis as the existential threat that it is, not only to us, but to all of humanity.”
“This is an outstanding opportunity for him and his leadership to advance U.S. interests and values on a range of issues,” one senior administration official said.
All of those topics, in addition to reiterating his commitment to the U.N. Charter, officials said, will be a part of Biden’s annual address to the General Assembly on Tuesday. On the same day, Biden will also meet with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and participate in the first-ever summit with the presidents of five Central Asian nations before hosting the traditional reception with leaders in the evening.
On Wednesday, Biden will sit down with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and take part in an event with labor leaders from both nations.
Later will come the president’s first face-to-face meeting with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu since the prime minister returned to office late last year.
Notably, the leaders of four of the five countries that are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are sitting the event out: China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron and the U.K.’s Rishi Sunak.
The U.S. is the only country that is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that will see its leader attend the summit, which White House Director for Strategic Communications Michael Feldman said makes Biden’s presence “even more critical” in an interview with Spectrum News on Monday.
“We've asked some of our UN experts in our system: this has happened before that we've had only one of the five P5 leaders here in New York,” Feldman added, “but I think 140 other leaders [are] in town, a few of which the President will have time to have bilateral meetings with and nearly all of whom will be at a speech tomorrow, so for us, this is still an action packed foreign policy week in New York.”
Xi also skipped the G20 summit earlier this month, with Biden saying he was “disappointed” but still insisting he was going to meet with the Chinese leader.
Biden’s face-to-face with Netanyhu will be particularly closely-watched. The meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York puts to bed months of speculation over whether the U.S. president would invite Netanyahu to the White House for the pair’s first sit-down since the prime minister’s return to power.
Biden has been critical of Netanyhu’s overhaul of the country’s judicial system. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters at a White House press briefing last week, the leaders will use Wednesday’s meeting to discuss “a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region, as well as to compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran.”
Netanyhu met with billionaire businessman Elon Musk in California on Monday to talk about artificial intelligence and antisemitism on the Musk-own social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Meanwhile, Feldman said Biden’s fist-ever presidential summit on Tuesday with the heads of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan will be a chance to “take what is, until now, been a relationship at the foreign minister level to the leader level.”
“Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has been able to have partnerships with these countries on counterterrorism, on nuclear disarmament,” Feldman said.
Senior administration officials also emphasized the president’s focus on Ukraine as Russia’s invasion of the country stretches into its second year.
“Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence," Biden will say, per excerpts from his remarks. "But I ask you this: If we abandon the core principles of the UN Charter to appease an aggressor, can any member state feel confident that they are protected? If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?
“The answer is no. We must stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow."
Biden is set to pledge that the U.S. and its allies and partners "will continue to stand with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity – and their freedom."
But Biden’s efforts to shore up continued global backing comes as he faces questions around support from some at home. The president’s request to Congress for an additional around $24 billion in aid for Ukraine has become a sticking point for some House Republicans amid already intense debates to keep the government funded past Sept. 30.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to travel to Washington for a sit-down at the White House on Thursday as well as a stop on Capitol Hill.
On Friday, Sullivan also said Biden will reiterate his call – first expressed during last year’s U.N. General Assembly speech – to add permanent and non-permanent members to the U.N. Security Council.
Feldman said the president has been clear about his “desire to add countries from Latin America [and] from Africa” as well as “new permanent seats for Germany, India, and Japan.”
“I think that the war in Ukraine really brought this into stark relief, that some of the leading global powers are lacking a seat at the table,” he said.