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At This Hour

Putin Orders More Troops, Makes Veiled Nuclear Threats; Biden Addresses World Leaders at U.N. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 21, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. AT THIS HOUR, we are moments away from a major speech from President Biden, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly any minute now. We see the president entering the U.N. this morning.

The White House says the president will speak to world leaders, saying they need to do more to support Ukraine and firmly rebuke Russia for its unprovoked war.

Biden's speech comes at a very interesting time. It's just hours after Vladimir Putin announced he's calling up 300,000 reservists, more troops to fight in Ukraine's war. Noteworthy as his remarks come after the string of humiliating losses on the battlefield.

Putin also raised in his remarks the possibility once again of using nuclear weapons. Kaitlan Collins is live for us here in New York.

What is President Biden expected to lay out in his remarks?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this speech was always going to be focused on Ukraine. But just a few hours ago, Putin's speech adds a new twist.

Biden was obviously going to offer the commitment, the full commitment of the United States for Ukraine, talk about not just what the United States should be doing but other nations calling for action as well, which is what you've seen from dozens of nations ever since the invasion happened.

We are told President Biden will be directly responding to that speech from President Putin this morning, calling up for the mobilization of some 300,000 Russian forces he clearly so desperately needs, the White House believes, on the ground in Ukraine.

They have suffered so many setbacks, so many issues ever since the invasion started. So the White House is not surprised. They were expecting President Putin to give this speech. It's not like a dramatic rewriting of what President Biden was going to say.

But you will see him directly respond to this. It is viewed as an escalation, a sign of weakness, in the White House's estimation, of President Putin's war and just a sign of the struggles that he has faced.

You saw Putin railing again Western leaders for sending weapons, intelligence and money to Ukraine. There will be a good question of if he chooses to respond to the nuclear rhetoric.

He didn't say it out front but he was pretty clear about what the unveiled threat was about. So that is something the White House has tried to tamp down, saying that they don't believe Russia has actually taken actions behind the scenes on that. We'll see when President Biden speaks.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to go to the announcement from Putin and the most significant Russian escalation since the war in Ukraine began, a mobilization of 300,000 more soldiers, as his forces suffer major setbacks.

The Russian leader did make a new veiled nuclear threat toward the West. Ben Wedeman is live in Kyiv for us this hour.

How is Ukraine reacting to Putin?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ukrainian officials have been somewhat dismissive of this announcement but we heard from President Zelenskyy, who said it was no surprise, given the high level of desertions in the Russian ranks.

We heard the foreign minister say that this is a good time to redouble Western aid to Ukraine. Certainly this has been a consistent theme for quite some time from Ukraine, that, in order to counter the Russian invasion, it needs more weapons and more sophisticated weapons.

President Zelenskyy in particular in recent weeks has been stressing the need for air defense systems, given that the Russians seem to be targeting civilian infrastructure.

In fact, here in Kharkiv last night at 2 am local time, there was a Russian missile strike about a mile from here, seems to have been targeting the railroad system. Finally we heard from the mayor of Kyiv, who said, reacting to President Putin's speech that Putin has launched the process that will bury him. Kate.


BOLDUAN: Ben, thank you so much for being there.

Kaitlan Collins is back with us. Also chief national security correspondent and anchor Jim Sciutto and CNN military analyst, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling.

General, let me start with you. The White House says that Putin's announcement is an admission of failure by Putin. Let me play what John Kirby said just this morning.



He has suffered tens of thousands of casualties; he has terrible morale, unit cohesion on the battlefield, command and control has still not been solved. He's got desertion problems and he's forcing wounded back into the fight. So manpower's a problem for him. He feels like he's on his back foot, particularly in the northeast area of the Donbas.


BOLDUAN: General, do you agree?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely, Kate. It's not only an indication of what has happened in the past, it's prescient in terms of what may happen in the future.

This is a physics problem. Russia cannot generate an additional force of 300,000 soldiers to come on the battlefield from a reserve force, especially since those individuals don't want to do it.

We are seeing massive purchases of one-way tickets out of Russia to territories of different aged men. Putin just provided a new rule to all of this, saying 18- to 65-year-old men cannot leave the country.

So what we are seeing is a forced conscription of individuals, who have lost their will to fight and their capability to fight.

Remember, Russian soldiers aren't trained very well. When you're talking about lapses in times of service, you'll get an army that's just more cannon fodder. I think the Russian people know this. John Kirby hits it right on the head. This is an indication of how badly Putin is losing.

BOLDUAN: How long does it take to mobilize 300,000 new troops?

HERTLING: We tried this during Desert Storm with much less number of people, like 5,000 soldiers in a brigade. It literally took months to train them up to fight.

So far we have not seen Russia leaning toward training them to fight; they just throw them into the battle. You know, Kate, I got to tell you, in my view, it will take months, if not years, to get that many people mobilized and have them, you know, report to their so-called duty stations.

BOLDUAN: Jim, talk to me about what you're hearing from your sources.

How worried do you think President Zelenskyy should be after this announcement?

What does it mean for NATO allies?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I asked the prime minister of Estonia, a short time ago, Kaja Kallas, which shares a border with Russia, has been the focus of Russian attacks in the past, if she and her country takes this nuclear threat seriously.

She said, in no uncertain terms, yes. She calls the threat real and it was real before today. Now the difference will be -- and this is what Barbara Starr has been reporting and I've been hearing the same -- the U.S. and NATO have not yet observed Russia's preparation of using nuclear weapons.

That, of course, would be a more alarming step. But keep in mind this. Putin lifted the veil on the nuclear threat with these comments. He said in so many words, this is not a bluff.

If there's one lesson from Vladimir Putin and his words and threats, that is, listen to what he says, because oftentimes he follows through.

BOLDUAN: Kaitlan, tell me more about what you're feeling -- I think we see President Biden walking into the U.N. General Assembly. Let's see if he's heading up to speak right now. Let's listen in, President Biden.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, my fellow leaders, in the last year, our world has experienced great upheaval: a growing crisis in food insecurity; record heat, floods and droughts; COVID-19; inflation; and a brutal, needless war -- a war chosen by one man, to be very blunt.

Let us speak plainly. A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor --


BIDEN: -- Attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map.

Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations Charter -- no more important than the clear prohibition against countries taking the territory of their neighbor by force.

Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe and a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime.

Now Russia is calling up more soldiers to join the fight. And the Kremlin is organizing 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.

In the past, even more horrifying evidence of Russia's atrocity and war crimes: mass graves uncovered in Izyum; bodies, according to those that excavated those bodies, showing signs of torture.

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 not -- that should make your blood run cold.

That's why 141 nations in the General Assembly came together to unequivocally condemn Russia's war against Ukraine. The United States has marshaled massive levels of security assistance and humanitarian aid and direct economic support for Ukraine -- more than $25 billion to date.

Our allies and partners around the world have stepped up as well. And today, more than 40 countries represented in here have contributed billions of their own money and equipment to help Ukraine defend itself.

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.

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.

So we -- each of us in this body who is determined to uphold the principles and beliefs we pledge to defend as members of the United Nations -- must be clear, firm and unwavering in our resolve.

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.

Now it's no secret that in the contest between democracy and autocracy --


BIDEN: -- the United States -- and I, as president -- champion a vision for our world that is grounded in the values of democracy.

The United States is determined to defend and strengthen democracy at home and around the world. Because I believe democracy remains humanity's greatest instrument to address the challenges of our time.

We're working with the G7 and likeminded countries to prove democracies can deliver for their citizens but also deliver for the rest of the world as well.

But as we meet today, the U.N. Charter -- the U.N. Charter's very basis of a stable and just rule-based order is under attack by those who wish to tear it down or distort it for their own political advantage.

And the United Nations Charter was not only signed by democracies of the world, it was negotiated among citizens of dozens of nations with vastly different histories and ideologies, united in their commitment to work for peace.

As President Truman said in 1945, the U.N. Charter, and I quote, is "proof that nations, like men, can state their differences, can face them and then can find common ground on which to stand," end of quote.

That common ground was so straightforward, so basic that, today, 193 of you -- 193 member states -- have willingly embraced its principles. And standing up for those principles for the U.N. Charter is the job of every responsible member state.

I reject the use of violence and war to conquer nations or expand borders through bloodshed.

To stand against global politics of fear and coercion; to defend the sovereign rights of smaller nations as equal to those of larger ones; to embrace basic principles like freedom of navigation, respect for international law and arms control -- no matter what else we may disagree on, that is the common ground upon which we must stand.

If you're still committed to a strong foundation for the good of every nation around the world, then the United States wants to work with you.

I also believe the time has come for this institution to become more inclusive so that it can better respond to the needs of today's world.

Members of the U.N. Security Council, including the United States, should consistently uphold and defend the U.N. Charter and refrain from the use of the veto, except in rare, extraordinary situations, to ensure that the Council remains credible and effective.

That is also why the United States supports increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent representatives of the council. This includes permanent seats for those nations we've long supported and permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The United States is committed to this vital work. In every region, we pursued new, constructive ways to work with partners to advance shared interests, from elevating the Quad in the Indo-Pacific; to signing the Los Angeles Declaration of Migration and Protection at the Summit of the Americas; to joining a historic meeting of nine Arab leaders to work toward a more peaceful, integrated Middle East; to hosting the U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit in -- this December.

As I said last year, the United States is opening an era of relentless diplomacy to address the challenges that matter most to people's lives -- all people's lives: tackling the climate crisis, as the previous speaker spoke to; strengthening global health security; feeding the world -- feeding the world.

We made that priority. And one year later, we're keeping that promise.

From the day I came to office, we've led with a bold climate agenda. We rejoined the Paris Agreement, convened major climate summits, helped deliver critical agreements on COP26. And we helped get two thirds of the world GDP on track to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

And now I've signed a historic piece of legislation here in the United States that includes the biggest, most important climate commitment we have ever made in the history of our country: $369 billion toward climate change.

That includes tens of billions in new investments in offshore wind and solar, doubling down on zero emission vehicles, increasing energy efficiency, supporting clean manufacturing.


BIDEN: Our Department of Energy estimates that this new law will reduce U.S.

emissions by one gigaton a year by 2030 while unleashing a new era of clean-energy-powered economic growth.

Our investments will also help reduce the cost of developing clean energy technologies worldwide, not just the United States. This is a global game changer -- and none too soon. We don't have much time.

We all know we're already living in a climate crisis. No one seems to doubt it after this past year. We meet -- we meet -- as we meet, much of Pakistan is still underwater; it needs help. Meanwhile, the Horn of Africa faces unprecedented drought.

Families are facing impossible choices, choosing which child to feed and wondering whether they'll survive.

This is the human cost of climate change. And it's growing, not lessening.

So as I announced last year, to meet our global responsibility, my administration is working with our Congress to deliver more than $11 billion a year to international climate finance to help lower-income countries implement their climate goals and ensure a just energy transition.

The key part of that will be our plan, which will help half a billion people and especially vulnerable countries, adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience.

This need is enormous. So let this be the moment we find within ourselves the will to turn back the tide of climate devastation and unlock a resilient, sustainable, clean energy economy to preserve our planet.

On global health, we've delivered more than 620 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 116 countries around the world, with more available to help meet countries' needs -- all free of charge, no strings attached.

And we're working closely with the G20 and other countries. And the United States helped lead the change to establish a groundbreaking new Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response at the World Bank.

At the same time, we've continued to advance the ball on enduring global health challenges.

Later today, I'll host the Seventh Replenishment Conference for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. With bipartisan support in our Congress, I have pledged to contribute up to $6 billion to that effort.

So I look forward to welcoming a historic round of pledges at the conference resulting in one of the largest global health fundraisers ever held in all of history.

We're also taking on the food crisis head on. With as many as 193 million people around the world experiencing acute food insecurity -- a jump of 40 million in a year -- today I'm announcing another $2.9 billion in U.S. support for lifesaving humanitarian and food security assistance for this year alone.

Russia, in the meantime, is pumping out lies, trying to pin the blame for the crisis -- the food crisis -- onto sanctions imposed by many in the world for the aggression against Ukraine.

So let me be perfectly clear about something: Our sanctions explicitly allow -- explicitly allow Russia the ability to export food and fertilizer. No limitation. It's Russia's war that is worsening food insecurity and only Russia can end it.

I'm grateful for the work here at the U.N. -- including your leadership, Mr. Secretary-General -- establishing a mechanism to export grain from Black Sea ports in Ukraine that Russia had blocked for months and we need to make sure it's extended.

We believe strongly in the need to feed the world. That's why the United States is the world's largest supporter of the World Food Programme, with more than 40 percent of its budget.

We're leading support -- we're leading support of the UNICEF efforts to feed children around the world.

And to take on the larger challenge of food insecurity, the United States introduced a Call to Action --


BIDEN: -- a roadmap eliminating global food insecurity -- to eliminating global food insecurity that more than 100 nation member states have already supported.

In June, the G7 announced more than $4.5 billion to strengthen food security around the world.

Through USAID's Feed the Future Initiative, the United States is scaling up innovative ways to get drought- and heat-resistant seeds into the hands of farmers who need them, while distributing fertilizer and improving fertilizer efficiency so that farmers can grow more while using less.

And we're calling on all countries to refrain from banning food exports or hoarding grain while so many people are suffering. Because in every country in the world, no matter what else divides us, if parents cannot feed their children, nothing else matters if parents cannot feed their children.

As we look to the future, we're working with our partners to update and create rules of the road for new challenges we face in the 21st century.

We launched the Trade and Technology Council with the European Union to ensure that key technologies -- key technologies are developed and governed in the way that benefits everyone.

With our partner countries and through the U.N., we're supporting and strengthening the norms of responsibility -- responsible state behavior in cyberspace and working to hold accountable those who use cyberattacks to threaten international peace and security.

With partners in the Americas, Africa, Europe and the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific, we're working to build a new economic ecosystem while -- where every nation -- every nation gets a fair shot and economic growth is resilient, sustainable and shared.

That's why the United States has championed a global minimum tax. And we will work to see it implemented so major corporations pay their fair share everywhere.

It's also been the idea behind the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which the United States launched this year with 13 other Indo-Pacific economies. We're working with our partners in ASEAN and the Pacific Islands to support a vision for a critical Indo-Pacific region that is free and open, connected and prosperous, secure and resilient.

Together with partners around the world, we're working to secure resilient supply chains that protect everyone from coercion or domination and ensure that no country can use energy as a weapon. And as Russia's war roils the global economy, we're also calling on major global creditors, including the non-Paris Club countries, to transparently negotiate debt forgiveness for lower income countries to forestall broader economic and political crises around the world.

Instead of infrastructure projects that generate huge and large debt without delivering on the promised advantages, let's meet the enormous infrastructure needs around the world with transparent investments -- high-standard projects that protect the rights of workers and the environment -- keyed to the needs of the communities they serve, not to the contributor.

That's why the United States, together with fellow G7 partners, launched a Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. We intend to collectively mobilize $600 billion in investment through this partnership by 2027.

Dozens of projects are already underway: industrial-scale vaccine manufacturing in Senegal, transformative solar projects in Angola, first-of-its-kind small modular nuclear power plant in Romania.

These are investments that are going to deliver returns not just for those countries but for everyone. The United States will work with every nation, including our competitors, to solve global problems like climate change. Climate diplomacy is not a favor to the United States or any other nation and walking away hurts the entire world.

Let me be direct about the competition between the United States and China. As we manage shifting geopolitical trends, the United States will conduct itself as a reasonable leader. We do not seek conflict. We do not seek a Cold War. We do not ask any nation to choose between the United States or any other partner.

But the United States will be unabashed in promoting our vision of a free, open, secure and prosperous world and what we have to offer communities of nations: investments that are designed not to foster dependency but to alleviate burdens.