In a Wednesday speech at the United Nations General Assembly, President Joe Biden directly outlined the reality of recent and ongoing actions by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose continuing invasion of Ukraine is claiming huge numbers of lives and leaving vast portions of Ukraine in ruins.
Just recently, another mass grave was discovered, this time in the recently liberated, Kharkiv-region town Izium, which Russian forces were using for launching attacks on nearby areas inside Ukraine. Some 450 bodies were found, with signs of torture among victims. Ukrainian forces are — with the solidarity (in the form of weapons deliveries and related initiatives) of numerous countries around the world — currently engaged in counteroffensive operations designed to push invading Russian troops from key areas including Kherson, a large city in Ukraine’s south that Russian soldiers seized months earlier. Plans are in motion for putting the question of politically joining Russia to a vote in occupied areas inside Ukraine — something with an obviously predetermined outcome.
“Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe and a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime,” Biden said Wednesday. “Now Russia is calling — 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. This world should see these outrageous acts for what they are. Putin claims he had to act because Russia was threatened. But no one threatened Russia, and no one other than Russia sought conflict. In fact, we warned it was coming. And with many of you, we worked to try to avert it. Putin’s own words make his true purpose unmistakable. Just before he invaded, Putin asserted — and I quote — Ukraine was “created by Russia” and never had, quote, “real statehood.” And now we see attacks on schools, railway stations, hospitals — on centers of Ukrainian history and culture.”
There is also “even more horrifying evidence of Russia’s atrocity and war crimes: mass graves uncovered in Izium; bodies, according to those that excavated those bodies, showing signs of torture,” Biden added. “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold.”
“The United States is also working closely with our allies and partners to impose costs on Russia, to deter attacks against NATO territory, to hold Russia accountable for the atrocities and war crimes,” Biden continued, getting into the consequences global interests are seeking to impose. “Because if nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for. Everything. Every victory won on the battlefield belongs to the courageous Ukrainian soldiers. But this past year, the world was tested as well, and we did not hesitate. We chose liberty. We chose sovereignty. We chose principles to which every party to the United Nations Charter is beholding. We stood with Ukraine. Like you, the United States wants this war to end on just terms, on terms we all signed up for: that you cannot seize a nation’s territory by force. The only country standing in the way of that is Russia… Ukraine has the same rights that belong to every sovereign nation. We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine. We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression. Period.”
Imagine how the speech might have gone if it was Trump giving it — Trump, who struggled with unequivocally condemning Putin even after the war began! In a speech earlier this year, Trump characterized the war as devastating — and he also described Putin as smart, as though the former president’s idea of the source of the dismal elements of the situation isn’t even necessarily Putin himself! Trump has also repeatedly ranted and threatened substantive action undercutting NATO, one of the key defenses against further Russian aggression. At a rally, he claimed that while in office he told a fellow NATO leader that the U.S. wouldn’t be coming to that country’s defense as obliged by the alliance if it was attacked by Russia but had what Trump characterized as unpaid bills associated with NATO. That implicitly downplays the seriousness of the threat from Putin’s violence and — if Trump regains power — could make Russian leadership think they’re more free to expand their range of operations (unless Ukraine completely cripples their ability to wage war by then through their aggressive defenses against the invaders).