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Ukraine and Russia will be in focus as Biden speaks to U.N. General Assembly


President Biden is currently giving a big speech in New York today. He's there meeting world leaders who have gathered for the United Nations General Assembly. And he has spent quite a bit of time in his speech talking about the actions of one leader who was not at the U.N., and that's Russian President Vladimir Putin. Biden said what Putin is doing in Ukraine goes against what the United Nations is all about.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Let us speak plainly. A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations charter.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is in New York.

Franco, we saw that unusual speech from President Biden (ph) in Russia earlier today, where he announced that he's calling up more troops. What did President Biden have to say in response?

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Yeah. President Biden did not waste any time. He immediately slammed Putin's announcement in that speech to call for more soldiers to fight in the war against Ukraine, as well as the decision to hold a series of votes to try and take control of parts of Ukraine. You know, he said Putin's actions should, quote, "make your blood run cold."


BIDEN: Just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe and a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of a nonproliferation regime. Now Russia's calling up more soldiers to join the fight. And the Kremlin is organizing a sham referenda to try to annex parts of Ukraine - an extremely significant violation of the U.N. charter.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, and he said the world should see these, quote, "outrageous acts for what they are." You know, he said that Putin has shamelessly violated those core tenets by trying to, quote, "extinguish Ukraine's right to exist as a state."

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So it sounds like a full-throated defense of the principles of the U.N. What else did Biden have to say during his remarks?

ORDOÑEZ: Right. He also announced $2.9 billion in food aid. The war in Ukraine has been a factor in hiking food prices in some of the poorest areas of the world. And he talked a lot about his commitment to curb climate change and took a bit of a victory lap as well on the new bill that includes incentives for clean energy, calling it a global game-changer.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, this speech sounds and feels a little different from the one that he gave last year to the U.N. How different was it?

ORDOÑEZ: It's really different. You know, it's a really different environment for Biden this time around. You know, last year he spent part of his speech defending his decision to leave Afghanistan. That chaotic exit was still fresh on the minds of many leaders. And European leaders had been upset that they weren't consulted more about that. You know, this year we saw Biden and the administration be very deliberate on Ukraine to include allies in all of its decisions and discussions about sanctions and such. But European leaders are still nervous about the long-term commitments of the U.S. to this pushback against Russia.

You know, I spoke about this with Constanze Stelzenmuller, a European security expert at the Brookings Institution.

CONSTANZE STELZENMULLER: Europeans are watching political debates in America, are seeing how divided the country remains, how the hard right in America, the MAGA right, has been critical of the administration's war effort.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, she says there's real fear that more Americans will not want to get entangled in the fight on the other side of the Atlantic.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Franco Ordoñez in New York.

Franco, thanks.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.