NEW YORK — President Joe Biden is set to rally international support for Ukraine’s effort to repel Russia’s invasion in a speech this morning at the United Nations, remarks that come as many Americans tire of using taxpayer money to shore up Ukraine’s defenses.
Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly is the centerpiece of a trip to Manhattan this week that includes a series of private meetings with world leaders and, separately, fundraising events for his 2024 reelection campaign.
In his address, scheduled for 10 a.m. ET, Biden is also expected to discuss the dangers of climate change and the importance of nations acting collectively to solve the world’s most pressing problems — an implicit rebuke of the “America First” approach taken by former President Donald Trump, his chief rival in the presidential race.
Making a cameo at the UN meetings is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has become the face of his embattled country and its war to preserve its sovereignty in the face of Russia’s attack. Biden and Zelenskyy are also scheduled to meet separately on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Last year, Zelenskyy addressed the United Nations General Assembly by video — not in person.
In his trademark green fatigues, Zelenskyy has been a charismatic salesman for the funding and munitions that Ukraine needs to defeat the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022.
During the UN meetings unfolding this week, “There is no shortage of colorful characters who show up” a senior Biden administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss Zelenskyy’s attendance. “But he is a truly inspirational figure and someone who can personalize the costs of the war. It’s only a net positive.”
Zelenskky may need to make a persuasive case. A CNN poll last month showed that 51 percent of the people surveyed believed the U.S. “has done enough” to help Ukraine in the fight against Russia, compared to 48 percent who want America to do more. At the outset of Russia’s invasion last year, by contrast, 62 percent believed the U.S. should do more to assist Ukraine.
“Ultimately, Biden understands that time is short,” said a former Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s view of the war. “I don’t think he can sustain the level of funding for much longer. That’s why you’re seeing Zelenskyy [coming to] the White House. It’s all about keeping the pressure up.”
“There’s not a blank check here,” the former official added.
In a sign of growing impatience with the war’s costs, House Republicans put forward a bill this week to avert a government shutdown that included no reference to aid to Ukraine. It is uncertain whether the GOP proposal carries enough support to pass the House.
A Ukrainian victory in the war would be a devastating setback for Putin and his territorial ambitions. It would also help Biden further isolate an autocratic leader whose actions have unnerved neighboring countries that are part of the NATO alliance.
“I will not side with dictators like Putin,” Biden said at a fundraising event Monday. “Maybe Trump and his MAGA friends can bow down, but I won’t.”