Hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated its military commitment in Ukraine and issued a nuclear threat, President Biden told the United National General Assembly that his Russian counterpart had “shamelessly violated” the U.N’s charter that protects national sovereignty and was working to ”erase a sovereign state from the map.”
“No one threatened Russia and no one other than Russia sought conflict,” Biden said, speaking to representatives from 193 countries in New York City. The war in Ukraine is “a war chosen by one man,” he said, and the goal is “extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people.”
Biden provided details of mass graves and torture found in Ukrainian cities by Russian troops as the latter retreated after recent military victories. “That should make your blood run cold,” Biden said.
Putin called up as many as 300,000 military reservists on Wednesday in what he described as a “partial mobilization” to bolster Russia’s armed forces. Putin also mentioned the possibility of a nuke response to Russian territorial threats. Putin’s comments came as Russia moves to annex parts of Ukraine currently occupied by its armed forces. Speaking from his desk with two white phones arrayed behind him, Putin said Russia had “various means of destruction” and “when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal.” He added: “It’s not a bluff.”
Putin indicated that only Russians currently in the military reserve can be called for service. He said it will start with Russians who are military veterans or have military specialties.
Russia’s escalation comes as Ukrainian military units have blitzed through Ukrainian towns seized by Russian forces earlier this year, taking back thousands of square miles of territory in the past few weeks. Russian forces suffered severe logistics and supply line problems, along with the loss of many thousands of Russian troops to Ukrainian aggressions.
Ukraine’s advance has been helped by U.S. and European allies supply of real-time intelligence information on Russian movements, as well as the delivery of sophisticated artillery systems and shoulder fired missiles designed for destroying Russian tanks. Biden is able to increase U.S. military support of Kyiv, without getting drawn into direct conflicts with Russia. Biden’s said from the start of the conflict that he has no intention of deploying U.S. troops into Ukraine does not want to risk an nuclear conflict by sending American fighter jets or military units into the area that might be directly within Russia’s line of fire.
“Biden gets good marks on continuing to supply Ukraine with weaponry and put Russia on the back foot,” says Rajan Menon, an expert on international relations at Defense Priorities, a think tank, and a professor emeritus at the City College of New York. As the conflict in Ukraine continues without any clear resolution, the alliance is likely to face internal pressure as prices for food and heating oils rise and other countries are pressured to reduce their support for Ukraine. “Who long can a Ukrainian economy that is really straining under the weight of the war be propped up?” Menon asks. “For that the president does not appear to have a ready answer, and that’s not a criticism because I don’t either and I don’t think anybody else does.”
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