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Bobby Ghosh

Biden’s UN Speech Was the Sound of One Hand Slapping

His sharp rebuke of Putin’s war on Ukraine failed to offer a blueprint for collective action—a mistake he must now rectify with some in-person diplomacy. 

A missed opportunity

A missed opportunity

Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images North America

Like most speeches Joe Biden gives these days, his address to the United Nations General Assembly started strong, but then petered out. The American president came out swinging against his Russian counterpart, slamming Vladimir Putin for making “overt nuclear threats” over Ukraine. But delegates — and the wider world — eager to hear what the US was going to do about it got, well, not very much.

Nor did Biden offer guidance on what measures the UN membership, singly or as a group, ought to take. There was no call for more assistance for Kyiv, no demand for more sanctions on Moscow. Although the president cited the March 2 resolution in which 141 member states voted to condemn Putin’s invasion, he did not call for another expression, even if mostly symbolic, of international reproof of the Russian leader’s decision to ratchet up the stakes.