Biden takes a big swing on the global stage before moving into the midterms


The midterms may be getting close. But Joe Biden’s focus will be firmly on business abroad, at least for the coming week.

The president will return to the international scene in the coming days to pay tribute to allies and encourage democracies — amid an audience where he arguably shines brighter than he does at home — before making that shift into an interim political blitz.

With the success of Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russia providing an inspiring backdrop, Biden will present his case to the United Nations next week and urge the world to rise up against Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war. And for that, he goes to the UK for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. He will pay tribute to the long-reigning monarch who, as a teenage princess in World War II, did her own part to stand up to a dictator.

Biden will then largely put diplomacy aside for a six-week barrage of domestic campaigns. But White House aides believe the pair’s consecutive meetings before then, in two world capitals – London and then New York – will provide the president with a welcoming podium.

He will use it, aides said, to push back against autocratic forces threatening the world.

Part of it will be focused on Beijing, a large part on Moscow. And with the eyes of the world on him, Biden will use his UN speech to call for support for the irregular band of fighters – reinforced with Western weapons – who are achieving stunning victories against a much larger war machine.

“There is a sense of momentum here from the Ukrainian armed forces,” said John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council. “And so what we’re going to do is continue to support them as best we can.”

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There will be no overt politics about what will probably be one of the greatest funerals the world has ever seen.

Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were scheduled to board Air Force One on Saturday for the flight to London, two days before the Queen’s funeral. As a princess, Elizabeth worked as a mechanic in the war effort against Adolf Hitler’s Germany and, after becoming queen, presided over a nation that has remained a bulwark for democracy.

The monumental funeral will attract leaders from around the world, many leaving their entourage and luxury vehicles for a day to pay their respects. Putin will not be there. But Biden, who met the queen last summer, will be one of the mourners. Aid workers plan for him to have at least some informal time with a number of allies, including Britain’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, who came to power just days before the Queen’s death.

But in London all talk of the war will be whispered a few thousand miles to the east. In New York it takes center stage a few days later.

Biden’s speech to the UN General Assembly was postponed by a day because of the funeral, and the president will now take the stage on Wednesday. Aid workers have been working on the speech for weeks. They consider it the latest in a string of high-profile opportunities for Biden to place the struggle in Ukraine in his larger vision that the next century will be defined by the struggle between democracies and autocracies.

The first opportunity was at the State of the Union address, just days after the Russian invasion in February. That was followed by a few summits in Europe – in Poland in March, Spain in June – in which Biden tried to keep his coalition together. And now this speech at the United Nations — the first full-fledged General Assembly since before the Covid pandemic — comes at a particularly important moment in the war.

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Biden’s support for Ukraine has not wavered, even as Russia marked the spring with abrasive but steady progress in the east of the country. Now the momentum seems to be with Ukraine, which in recent weeks has enhanced cooperation and intelligence-sharing with the United States to launch a two-pronged counter-offensive that took Moscow by surprise. But US military officials have warned it was too soon to celebrate and warned that Russia was still well fortified in much of the region and could soon regroup.

In addition, fears have grown of a difficult winter in Europe, which will be largely cut off from Russian energy when temperatures begin to drop. Biden staffers have long seen the coming winter as the war’s most difficult season, one in which most of the fighting would freeze and also test the resolve of Europe’s support for Ukraine.

Biden staff believe Ukraine’s recent victories prove that it remains worthwhile for Europe to lag behind Kiev. The president, they saw, will hammer that point home from the Turtle Bay podium, calling on the continent to strengthen its steadfastness as the United States continues to funnel billions of dollars in weapons and supplies to the Ukrainian resistance.

Biden will also urge countries to further isolate Putin. Aid workers were still weighing how directly Biden will call on nations he sees not doing their part to help — be it China for not condemning the war or India, which has yet to commit to a price cap. for Russian oil. Biden advisers watched with interest on Thursday as Chinese President Xi Jinping greeted Putin as an “old friend” at a summit in Central Asia. But officials noted that there were still no signs that Beijing was violating sanctions by directly helping Moscow.

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Next week’s speech in New York will in many ways foreshadow what is poised to become one of the most important multinational gatherings in decades. The G20 is set to meet in Indonesia in November, where aides work to hold their first in-person summit since Biden-Xi’s presidents took office.

But the meeting between the two rival superpowers won’t even headline Bali. The Indonesian government has confirmed that Putin will also be in attendance, potentially bringing him face to face with Western leaders for the first time since launching his invasion.

Officials have said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also considered attending — it would be his first time leaving his country since the war started — potentially sparking a confrontation with Putin. But officials warned the plans were tentative. Either way, Biden was ready to carry the flag of democracies to the Southeast Asian summit.

“I believe the response to the war has been the most important and successful aspect of his foreign policy to date,” said Richard Haass, the chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, ahead of the UN address. “It sums up his fundamental propensity for foreign policy, an alliance-based response to tyranny.”