Biden arrives at UN with ‘wind at his back’, but concerns remain as Russia prolongs war in Ukraine.

After delivering his first UN address last year under the cloud of a messy withdrawal from Afghanistan and stalled domestic ambitions, Biden enters his secondary exit with a stronger hand.

“We think the president is going to New York with the wind at his back,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

Yet even as Biden claims renewed US leadership, deeper questions remain about his ability to maintain that position in the coming years as the specter of a global recession looms and threats to American democracy intensify.

Biden has spent a lot of time highlighting these threats in recent weeks, especially to his domestic audience, but foreign capitals are also listening intently. In recent speeches, he has recounted sitting around a table at last year’s Cornwall (England) Group of 7 summit, telling fellow leaders “America is back”.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Biden told the audience, asked him, “How long?”

That question still hangs over Biden’s global efforts, a year and a half into his tenure, as his predecessor continues to wield influence in the Republican Party and prepares another run for the White House. Biden himself said in an interview on Sunday that although he intends to run for re-election, the final decision “remains to be seen”.

One of the issues at the forefront of global affairs today — the bitter negotiations to restart the Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew — only underscores the consequences of the pendulum swings in American leadership.

For Biden, the annual UN address is another stab at explaining to the world how he has brought the US back to a leadership position after Donald Trump’s “America First” years.

In it, he will offer “a strong rebuke to Russia’s unjust war in Ukraine,” according to Sullivan, and “will call on the world to continue to oppose the naked aggression we have seen in recent months.”

It also aims to reveal “significant new announcements” to fight food insecurity and “detail how the US has regained its global leadership and its integrity on the world stage,” Sullivan said.

After his speech on Wednesday morning, Biden will host a pledge session for the Global Fund to Fight HIV, AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In the afternoon, Biden and the first lady will host a reception for leaders at the American Museum of Natural History.

This week’s agenda changed as world leaders gathered in London for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, one of the largest gatherings of heads of state in recent memory. Many flew from the British capital to New York for UN meetings.

Instead of the usual Tuesday morning speaking slot, Biden’s address was delayed a day. Unlike previous years, when the UN General Assembly was reduced due to Covid-19, this year’s meeting has returned to its usual presence.

Biden and his aides have been writing the address for several weeks, which coincided with Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive months after Russia occupied some of its territory. The initiative was coordinated with US officials, including through enhanced information and intelligence sharing, and supported by weapons provided by the US and its allies.

U.S. officials have warned that Ukraine’s current gains do not necessarily signal a broader shift in approach to the war, which is likely to result in a protracted conflict. A day before Biden’s speech, two Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine announced plans to hold referendums on whether to officially join Russia, a vote the US had previously warned would be “sham”.

One of Biden’s goals in Wednesday’s speech will be to emphasize the importance of maintaining unity among Western allies to help Ukraine in the uncertain months ahead.

That effort is complicated by a looming energy crisis as Russia withholds supplies of natural gas to Europe as winter sets in. The higher costs, fueled by the tightening of Western sanctions against Moscow, have led to an economic disaster that is causing political turmoil for many leaders. In Biden’s coalition, including him.

The president will meet with one of those leaders, British Prime Minister Liz Truss, on Wednesday. Truss will have their first formal talks since his predecessor Boris Johnson’s decision to step down earlier this month.

He inherited a deep economic crisis, with high inflation and rising energy costs, which has fueled fears that the UK could soon enter a protracted recession. Few in the Biden administration shed tears over the resignation of Johnson — whom Biden once described as a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump — as the US and UK became more united in their approach to Russia under his leadership.

White House officials expect cooperation under Truss to continue, even as he comes under pressure to ease economic pressures at home.

It is less certain, however, whether Truss’ hard-line approach to Brexit has soured relations with Biden. The President has taken a personal interest in the specific issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the post-Brexit agreement that requires additional checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The rules were designed to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland open and prevent a return to sectarian violence. But Truss has set out to rewrite those rules, causing deep anxiety in both Brussels and Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not expected to appear face-to-face at this year’s general assembly, although his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, will be in New York for the event. Chinese President Xi Jinping also has no plans to attend the UN in person this year.

The two autocratic leaders, who met face-to-face last week, have deepened ties between their countries as relations with the West have soured. Biden has warned Xi against supporting Putin in his invasion of Ukraine, a theme he will repeat in his speech on Wednesday.

The absence of Putin and Xi underscores the limitations of venues like the UN in solving the world’s most pressing problems. With permanent seats on the UN Security Council, Russia has resisted the adoption of resolutions on Syria and Ukraine, and no action.

Efforts to reform the Security Council have gained momentum under the Biden administration, although the body’s chances of breaking the deadlock appear slim. Biden’s aides are still discussing how he will talk about his desire to reform the US Security Council during his visit to the UN this week, but he is expected to share his views with other leaders privately.

“We are committed to moving forward to make the UN fit for this century. And today there is an attack on the UN system. There is an attack on the Charter. And this has been done by a permanent member of the Security Council,” Biden told UN Ambassador Linda Thomas. Greenfield on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“I can’t change the fact that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, but I can continue the efforts that we’ve had, which is to isolate, to condemn, and to make sure that they know and understand that this is not business as usual,” he told Jake Tapper.