UN Absences Put Focus on Zelenskyy, Biden

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy | Image by paparazzza/Shutterstock

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will make his first in-person appearance at a UN General Assembly that promises to place his country’s war front and center, even as Russia and three other countries with permanent seats on the UN Security Council are declining to participate.

President Joe Biden will be the only leader of a permanent-seat nation to attend. In addition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will not be in attendance.

U.S. officials are regarding it as an opportunity for Biden to rally smaller countries under American leadership, reported CNBC.

“[Biden] will lay out for the world the steps that he and his administration have taken to advance a vision of American leadership that is built on the premise of working with others to solve the world’s most pressing problems,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Friday.

The spurning of the world body’s foremost event by some of the most important world leaders has caused some consternation for those who look to the UN to lead on issues of global importance.

Richard Gowan, the UN director of the International Crisis Group, called the state of affairs “bleak.”

“It feels like we are a lot closer to a cliff edge in U.N. diplomacy,” reported the Associated Press. “Major power tensions are having a more and more serious effect on the organization.”

As with Biden, the absence of those global leaders, especially Putin, can be viewed as an opportunity for Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to draw more attention and support for his country’s ongoing battle against Russia, reported the AP.

Zelenskyy will address the assembly Tuesday. He will also attend the Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Wednesday, where the topic of sovereignty and territorial integrity will take center stage, according to the AP. Zelenskyy will have a chance to engage leaders of the Global South, otherwise known as the developing nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, who have thus far been resistant to Western pressure to take Ukraine’s side in the ongoing conflict.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to open the assembly on Tuesday by warning of the dangers of the multipolar world currently developing along the deepening fractures between the West, Russia, and China.

According to the AP, Guterres will beseech the assembly to reject the multipolar world and instead concentrate on reforming multilateral institutions like the UN, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund “to make them more fair and more equitable, and more representative of the world today.”

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