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Biden Addresses World Leaders at U.N. General Assembly; Biden Says, Democracy is on the Ballot Once Again; Biden Says, Our History Need Not Dictate Our Future. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 19, 2023 - 10:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing outside of the United Nations for the 78th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Any minute, President Joe Biden will enter the hall behind me and address the world. We are expecting his motorcade to pass by us. Any minute now, we will see the beginnings of what look looking like the security for that.

The speeches have already begun. The president Brazil, Lula da Silva, is now speaking before the delegates there. Brazil traditionally the first nation to address the United Nations General Assembly is going to be the first president to address the general assembly.

For President Biden, it is a tall task today. He needs to rally the world to sustain support for Ukraine and its defense against Russia's aggression. This will be the first time later today that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will walk into this hall since Russia invaded his country, a crucial moment for him as well.

And for President Biden, of course, not just the international community that is the audience but also the domestic audience, as he is in the middle of a re-election campaign. Interestingly enough, the domestic audience and the international audience is looking for, in some ways, much the same thing. They want to see stability. They want to see leadership. And we are now getting a sense of what President Biden will say to the collective audience.

Here with me now, CNN Chief International Analyst Jim Sciutto and CNN White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche.

Kayla, I understand we are now getting some excerpts from what the president will say in just a few minutes.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, officials had said that Ukraine would figure prominently in this president's address this morning. And now, we are getting a glimpse of exactly what he plans to say.

The White House providing excerpts from the speech, saying that the president will say, Russia believes the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence. But I ask you this, the president will say, if we abandon the core principles of the U.N. Charter to appease any aggressor, can any member state feel confident that they are protected? If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure? The president plans to answer his own question, and say, the answer is no.

But, essentially, he is going to be broadening out an argument that he has long made to allies at the G7 and NATO, arguing that what's happening Ukraine could happen anywhere if Russia's aggression is allowed to continue unchecked.

BERMAN: He is saying Russia is betting the world will grow weary, and the answer to that, Jim, is, yes, yes, Russia betting that. And you are seeing more signs that it is happening not just overseas but here in the United States as well.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, question, at least corners of the Republican Party. Although there remains bipartisan support, but the question is will it be as great as it has been so far.

President Biden aware of those politics, as is the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He knows that this time is key, and that those support may never be stronger than it is today. That's a challenge for him going forward.

But I think from President Biden, this is about Ukraine, it's also about Taiwan. It's about what they see as a global standoff between democratic or largely democratic countries and authoritarians, but also, you will hear the phrase of, the international rules-based order, right, the idea that counties follow laws. They don't invade other countries, violate their borders, because Vladimir Putin wants to or because Xi Jinping wants to in Taiwan.

And I think part of that message, as Kayla was quoting there, is meant to be for everyone, and say, listen, if you let that stand, no one is safe, whether you are a democrat or authoritarian, and if you allow, if we, at the members of the United Nations, allow Putin's rule to win, then all of us suffer.

BERMAN: It is interesting, Kayla, Jim says this is about Ukraine, it's about Taiwan. But when President Biden speaks of the defense of democracy, he is also talking about the United States. And we are getting a taste for that during this trip here to New York.


TAUSCHE: Democracy has been hallmark of not only President Biden's term so far but also his 2020 campaign. And we are now learning that there are going to be more echoes of that in the 2024 campaign going forward.

President Biden has been meeting with donors. He's doing a slew of fundraisers here in New York while he's in town. And last night, he seemed to be road testing a new message where he was once again challenging former President Donald Trump and saying that he remains a threat to democracy.

And the direct, quote, that President Biden said to donors last night was, in 2024, democracy is on the ballot once again. Let there be no question, Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy.

And I will always defend, protect and -- democracy. Sharpening that message against his most likely opponent in the 2024 election and saying that democracy once again is on the ballot, essentially the same argument he made in 2020.

SCIUTTO: But no question, by the way, I think that is the president's motorcade this time, judging by the number of motorcycles.

BERMAN: We did get word that he left the hotel and he is now going to get passed by us very shortly.

SCIUTTO: The other thing that is on the ballot in effect here, and this is something I hear consistently from European leaders, leaders in Asia, that if Trump is re-elected, that will represent a sea change in America's approach to the world, that America first will dominate with enormous effects --

BERMAN: There goes the motorcade right there.

SCIUTTO: -- not just for this institution, but other alliances, such as NATO. There is an expectation that Trump might very well pull the U.S. out of NATO if he were to be re-elected.

So, it is about domestic challenges but also what U.S. allies see as a challenge to really the United States' whole approach to the world.

BERMAN: It is an important point to make, Jim. President Biden will be speaking here, obviously.

Former President Trump does hang as a specter over in a very real way for many of these nations.

SCIUTTO: I've spoken to European leaders, Asian leaders, and I spoke very recently to senior administration officials. The word they hear, and I often hear, is terrified of what a Trump presidency would mean. That's not my judgment. That is the judgment of folks leading countries or at senior positions around the country because of that very change in the U.S.

Well, I believe that is The Beast going by just now, the president's limousine, as he enters for his speech.

And, by the way, that is not an undue expectation given what Trump's public positions are. I will end the war in Ukraine in a day. Many believe that means end U.S. support or significant U.S. support for Ukraine if he were to be elected. There is a fear that he would not just think about pulling out of NATO but pull out NATO, not just think about reducing U.S. soldiers on the Korean Peninsula but pulling many out or all of them out. That's the way the world sees what's at stake in 2024. TAUSCHE: And President Biden is also fond of sharing the anecdote from early in his term where he was meeting with many of his European allies. And he said America is back, and they said, but for how long?

So, clearly, this is a question that looms large in the minds of many allies over the weekend. Germany's foreign minister was asked what a second Trump presidency would mean for some of these alliances. And she said that the world, NATO, Europe, would at least know what was coming the second time around, that it wouldn't come as quite such a shock as the first time, but Germany's chancellor has said that he very much wants President Biden to be re-elected for that reason.

BERMAN: You're looking at live pictures now. Obviously, the turnstiles there from inside the building shortly, President Biden will walk through that door. We did just see with our own eyes here on the street his motorcade drive by. So, we're going to keep our eye on this as we continue this conversation.

Kayla, that line that you use, but for how long, how does the White House see this moment that we're about to see from President Biden as a message of reassurance to the rest of the world, a message that I'm here, we're here, we're backing this?

TAUSCHE: Well, it honestly depends on how the election goes. President Biden can step onto the world stage. He can deliver these addresses. And he can take up the mantle of global leadership and attempt to elevate these priorities from the U.S. agenda. But if he is not re-elected by the American electorate, then that doesn't matter anymore.

And so, you know, many leaders watch domestic polling closely as a barometer of how that message is landing. And, certainly, you know, that's something that the administration knows full well, that the president, his image is boosted by being president, but, ultimately, it's domestic issues that drive his favorability here.

SCIUTTO: Does the pendulum swing, right, with a change in pendulum in terms of U.S. foreign policy back to America first as an approach to the world?

BERMAN: We did just see John Kirby, who works with the National Security Council, also a very public face, the chief spokesman for them. He just passed through those turnstiles one moment ago. The White House press secretary right there. There is former Secretary of State John Kerry right there, who, of course, serves as the main senior climate envoy, he is going in there.


Much of the discussion here, the formal discussion over the course of the next several days, will be about climate change, that explains the presence of Secretary Kerry. Karine Jean-Pierre there, the press secretary. Go ahead, Jim.

SCIUTTO: You know, you mentioned climate change. That will also be, and we see that from some of the excerpts from his speech. This administration talks about the world as democracy versus authoritarianism, rule breakers versus an international rules-based order.

But they also talk about areas of potential agreement, necessary agreement, frankly. Biden will make that point today because you can't solve climate change without negotiations and agreement with a country like China. It's just not possible.

And administration officials I speak with, I'm sure Kayla has the same experience, will often say, listen, we set our red lines here with Russia and China. But on climate change, we have to be at the table with China because there's no hope. Otherwise, that's just a requirement. And they see that as a sign of hope, too, that they can work together on it.

TAUSCHE: And there's always an element of good cop, bad cop as well, where you see some very forceful language, some forceful rhetoric, and then behind the scenes, much more productive discussions on certain specific channels like climate. Secretary Kerry, former Secretary Kerry visited China over the summer to have some of those very discussions.

BERMAN: We're seeing a steady stream again, we were, a moment ago of White House aides walking in. Everyone holding a very tall coffee, Kayla, which I think speaks to how busy this week is. You need the caffeine to get through the diplomatic schedule that is on their plate between the fundraising at night.

You say the speeches during the day and the meetings that will take place at very regular intervals, not just the president having this meeting, but obviously everyone who works alongside him as well.

After he speaks, Kayla, what will the president be doing today? There he is. Actually, here we go. Here is President Biden with the ambassador to the United Nations walking in just now, Kayla.

SCIUTTO: It's a fair question, will he talk about Afghanistan?

BERMAN: President Biden walking in there, not responding to people shouting questions, will he talk about Afghanistan? Clearly, I think he wants to let the speech he is about to give speak for itself.

Kayla, this will be his third time addressing the United Nations as president. He is someone with vast experience in the foreign policy realm, chairman of the Center for Relations Committee four years, then vice president as well. How does he feel about these moments? Does he relish the chance to speak to the international community like this?

TAUSCHE: He does. And it's safe to say that this is one of the president's comfort zones. This is where he feels at ease. This is a subject matter where he feels like he owns the subject matter. And aides say that he's relatively unassailable. And at the G20, the hope was that he would be able to step into a relative power vacuum with leaders of Russia and China not president. They hope something similar here at the United Nations, although there are a lot of other issues to tackle. We saw the U.N. ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas Greenfield, there walking with the president. She told reporters last week that the administration is aware, that there's frustration among the rest of the world that there's this very heavy focus on Ukraine.

That's one of the reasons why you'll hear the administration talk quite a bit about the global south. Brazil's leader has said that Brazil can be a leader of the global south. He has been lobbying President Biden for a seat, a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. So, certainly, there's going to be a bigger conversation about what the world order looks like and how the U.S. sees that.

BERMAN: All right. Kayla, Jim, stand by for just a minute. We're going to take a quick break. President Biden will be speaking any minute before the United Nations General Assembly, a very important address.

Our coverage continues right after this.



BERMAN: All right. Welcome back. You can see President Biden there addressing the 78th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, my fellow leaders, about a week ago, I stood on the other side of the world, in Vietnam, on soil once bloody with war. And I met a small group of veterans, Americans and Vietnamese, and I watched the exchange of personal artifacts from that war, identification cards and a diary.

It was deeply moving to see the reaction of the Vietnamese and American soldiers, a culmination of 50 years of hard work on both sides to address the painful legacies of war and to choose to work together toward peace and a better future.

Nothing about that journey was inevitable. For decades, it would have been unthinkable for an American president to stand in Hanoi alongside a Vietnamese leader and announce a mutual commitment to the highest level of the country's partnership.

But it's a powerful reminder that our history need not dictate our future. With the concerted leadership and careful effort, adversaries can become partners. Overwhelming challenges can be resolved and deep wounds can heal.

So, let us never forget that. When we choose to stand together and recognize the common hopes that bind all humanity, we hold our hands, the power and that power, to bend that arc of history.

My fellow leaders, we gather once more at an inflection point in world history. With the eyes of the world upon all of you, all of us, as president of the United States, I understand the duty my country has to lead in this critical moment, to work with countries in every region, linking them in common cause, to join together with partners who share a common vision of the future of the world, where our children do not go hungry and everyone has access to quality healthcare, where workers are empowered and our environment is protected, where entrepreneurs and innovators everywhere can access opportunity everywhere, where conflicts are resolved peacefully and countries can chart their own course.


The United States seeks a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable world for all people, because we know our future is bound to yours. Let me repeat that again. We know our future is bound to yours.

And no nation can meet the challenges of today alone. The generations that preceded us organized this body of the United Nations and built international financial institutions and multilateral regional bodies to help take on the challenges of their time.

It ain't always perfect. It wasn't always perfect. But working together, the world made some remarkable and undeniable progress that improved the lives of all people. We avoided the renewal of global conflict while lifting more than one billion people, one billion people out of extreme poverty. We together expanded access to education for millions of children.

We saved tens of millions of lives that would have otherwise been lost to preventable and treatable diseases, like measles, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, AIDS infections, and deaths plummeted in no small part because of PEPFAR's work in more than 55 countries, saving more than 25 million lives.

It's a profound testament to what we can achieve when we act together, when we take on tough challenges and an admonition for all of us to urgently accelerate our progress so that no one is left behind because too many people are being left behind.

The institutions we built together at the end of the Second World War are an enduring bedrock of our progress. And the United States has committed to sustaining them. And this year, we're proud to rejoin UNESCO.

We also recognize that to meet the new challenges of our decades-old institutions and approaches, they must be updated to keep peace with the world. We have to bring in more leadership and capability that exists everywhere, especially from reasons that have not always been fully included. We have to grapple with the challenges that are more connected and more complex and we have to make sure we're delivering for people everywhere, not just somewhere, everywhere.

Simply put, the 21st century results are badly needed and needed to move us along. That starts with the United Nations. It starts right here in this room.

In my address to this body last year, I announced the United States will support expanding the Security Council, increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent members. The United States has undertaken serious consultation with many member states and will continue to do our part to push for more reform efforts forward, look for points of common ground and make progress in the year ahead.

We need to be able to break the gridlock that too often stymies progress and blocks consensus on the council. We need more voices, more perspectives at the table. The United Nations must continue to preserve peace, prevent conflict, and alleviate human suffering. And we embrace nations stepping up to lead new ways and to seek new breakthroughs on hard issues.

For example, on Haiti, the Caribbean community is facilitating a dialogue among Haitian society. I thank President Ruto of Kenya, I think him for his willingness to serve as the lead nation of a U.N.- backed security support mission. I call on the Security Council to authorize this mission now. The people of Haiti cannot wait much longer.

The United States is working across the board to make global institutions more responsive, more effective, and more inclusive. For example, we've taken significant steps to reform and scale up the World Bank, expanding its financing to low and middle-income countries so it can help boost progress toward meeting the sustainable development goals and better address interconnected challenges, like climate change and fragility.

Under the new president of the World Bank, change is already taking root. Last month, I asked the United States Congress for additional funds to expand World Bank financing by $25 billion.


At the G20, we rallied the major economies of the world to mobilize even more funding. Collectively, we can deliver a transformational boost to World Bank lending.

And because the multi-lateral development banks are among the best tools we have for modern and up-mobilizing transparent, high-quality investment in developing countries, reforming these institutions can be a game changer.

Similarly, we proposed making sure developing countries have a strong voice and representation at the International Monetary Fund. We're going to continue our efforts to reform the World Trade Organization, preserve competition, open as transparency, and rule of law, while at the same time equipping it to better tackle modern-day imperatives like driving the clean energy transition, protecting workers, promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.

In this month, we strengthened the G20 as a vital forum welcoming the African Union as a permanent member. By upgrading and strengthening our institutions, that's only half of the picture. We must also forge new partnerships, confront new challenges.

Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, hold both enormous potential and enormous peril. We need to be sure that we use these tools of opportunity, not as weapons of oppression. Together with leaders around the world, the United States is working to strengthen rules and policies so A.I. technologies are safe before they're released to the public, to make sure we govern this technology, not the other way around having to govern us.

And I'm committed to working through this institution and other international bodies and directly with leaders around the world, including our competitors, to ensure we harness the power of artificial intelligence for good while protecting our citizens from its most profound risk.

It's going to take all of us. I've been working on this for a while, as many of you have. It's going to take all of us to get this right.

In every region of the world, the United States is mobilizing strong alliances, versatile partnerships, common purpose, collective action to bring new approaches to our shared challenges. Here in the western hemisphere, we're united 21 nations in support of the Los Angeles declaration on migration and protection, launching a region-wide approach to a region-wide challenge to better uphold laws and protect the rights of migrants.

In the Indo-Pacific, we've elevated our quad partnership with India, Japan and Australia to deliver concrete progress for the people of the region on everything from vaccines to maritime security. Just yesterday, after two consultations and diplomacy, the United States brought together dozens of nations across four continents to establish a new partnership for Atlantic cooperation so that the coast of the Atlantic countries can better cooperate on science, technology, environmental protection and sustainable economic development.

We brought together nearly 100 countries in a global coalition to counter fentanyl and synthetic drugs to reduce the human cost of this affliction, and it is real. And as the nature of the terrorist threats evolved and the geography expands to new places, we're working with our partners to bring capabilities to bear to disrupt plotting, degrade networks and protect all of our people.

Additionally, we convene the Summit for Democracy, to strengthen democratic institutions, root out corruption and reject political violence. And in this moment, where democratically-elected governments have been toppled in quick succession in Western and Central Africa, we're reminded that this work is as urgent and important as ever.

We stand with the African Union and ECOWAS, another regional body to support constitutional rule. We will not retreat from the values that make us strong. We will defend democracy, our best tool to meet the challenges that we face around the world.

And we're working to show how democracy can deliver in ways that matter to people's lives. The partnership for global infrastructure and investment addresses the enormous need and opportunity for infrastructure investment in low and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.