Good morning from New York, where it’s Day 3 of the U.N. General Assembly high-level week.
Leaders here have woken to the news from Moscow that Russian President Vladimir Putin will mobilize army reserves to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ensuring the topic dominates the rest of UNGA.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address UNGA today. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is now in New York.
In their first responses to Putin’s plan to hold sham referendums in four Ukrainian regions occupied by Russia, European leaders are slamming Russian imperialism. POLITICO’s Clea Caulcutt has this analysis.
BALTIC MESSAGE FOR PUTIN
“Putin’s target is to frighten the West,” Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia’s foreign minister, told Global Insider, adding, “The most important thing is to communicate by doing. We need to ramp up weapons aid to Ukraine immediately. We need to immediately increase sanctions. Estonia is proposing that the EU designates the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as terrorist organizations, just as we consider ISIS as a terrorist group.”
“This mobilization will not be popular with the Russian population, and we need to show Putin’s blackmail doesn’t work: that instead it will doom him politically,” Reinsalu added.
Rein Tammsaar, Estonia’s U.N. Ambassador described Moscow’s actions “pathetic” — “maybe only during last days of Soviet Union have I seen such desperation.”
The more things change … A year ago Biden famously opened his address with the phrase “I stand here today, for the first time in 20 years, with the United States not at war,” in a bid to wrest back the narrative after the disastrous evacuation of Afghanistan. This year, the speech will be Ukraine-heavy: the focus of billions of dollars in U.S. military and financial help that has spurred Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the East.
ALSO HAPPENING TODAY
Tonight, Biden will host an event for heads of state and foreign ministers attending the U.N. General Assembly — definitely the most sought-after ticket in New York (well, that’s if you’re not Russia).
COVID EFFECTS NOT OVER: The Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference‚ delayed by Queen Elizabeth’s funeral — finally takes place this afternoon. After focusing on the coronavirus pandemic in recent years, the conference aims to increase pledges to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. Ryan spoke with U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador JohnNkengasong.
Not done yet: Biden claimed in a recent interview that “the pandemic is over” — but Nkengasong, whose job it is to look at diseases beyond America’s borders, was clear that the pandemic is in fact far from finished.
“The world is still going through severe challenges because of the disruption Covid created,” Nkengasong said. “The disruption Covid created was across the board. We should always have that interconnectivity on our minds.”
Ripple effects: “It’s not just a health issue, it’s an economic issue, it’s a national security issue,” Nkengasong said, adding “Covid has disrupted our ability to deliver on AIDS, on TB, on malaria. We cannot treat these issues in isolation.”
On target: “We’re looking good for meeting the $18 billion target” for Global Fund replenishment by the end of this week, he said, adding: “I remain very optimistic … It’s important to never forget where we are coming from: 25 years ago, there was almost no hope, particularly in Africa.”
Kind of a big deal: Nkengasong is the inaugural winner of the Virchow Prize for Global Health, sort of like a Nobel Prize that recognizes and celebrates innovations. He’s donating the prize money to organizations supporting an end to health inequity.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE! Today is also climate day. Non-state actors have coordinated their actions and announcements for today, including a new Global Leadership Council, and Earthshot Innovation Summit by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and an informal leaders roundtable on climate action hosted by U.N. chief António Guterres this afternoon.
World Bank president riles climate crowd: Responding to suggestion by former Vice President Al Gore that he needs to be replaced as World Bank president for lack of climate action, David Malpass repeatedly declining to tell an audience at a New York Times event that he agreed with the scientific consensus that the planet’s climate is changing dangerously. “I’m not a scientist,” Malpass said at one point.
BIG PHILANTHROPY: Will optimism and a heavy dose of private money finally tip the scales toward meaningful climate action? Ryan Heath investigates among the biggest climate actors of the week. Listen here.
WHERE TO FIND POLITICO THIS WEEK
Ryan Heath interviews David Malpass: The World Bank president will talk about Tipping Points: Confronting Multiple Global Crises in a one-to-one interview, Thursday, Sept. 22. Register here.
POLITICO’s Mark Scott moderates sessions at Unfinished Live, a tech conference that is the the biggest single event of the week.
WHAT TO WATCH AS BIDEN SPEAKS TO THE WORLD
POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi and Ryan Heath break down what to expect ahead of Biden’s address …
Nahal has the full breakdown here, but let’s look at the basics:
Do the right thing: Biden will cast Ukraine as being on the righteous side in the war with Russia, but can he rally more support for Kyiv among countries still trying to keep friendly relations with the Kremlin? On Tuesday, Ukraine’s president urged his fellow leaders to abandon such neutrality, saying they can’t “vacillate between good and evil.”
The China factor: Will Biden be blunt about why the U.S. worries about China? Tensions between Washington and Beijing keep rising and Biden’s comment that U.S. troops will support Taiwan in a face-off with Beijing haven’t helped. China’s Xi Jinping won’t be at UNGA, but watch the faces of the Chinese delegation as Biden speaks … if they stay in the room.
Democracy, dammit: Biden is sure to discuss the importance of protecting democracy — it’s one of his favorite topics. The question is will his actions support or undermine his words? Which autocrats, for example, will he meet with on UNGA’s sidelines, and what will he tell them?
How to handle Russia: There are growing calls for a special tribunal to hold Russia accountable for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. But the U.S. prefers to see the process go through existing structures. Nonetheless, there are signs that Washington wants to do more than just talk about stopping atrocities: The State Department announced this week it will give an additional $1 million to support a U.N. mechanism looking into abuses committed by Myanmar’s military regime.
The odds of Biden interacting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on UNGA’s sidelines are below zero: Raisi’s latest comment casting doubt on the Holocaust is one infuriating reason — as is the recent death of a 22 year-old woman while in custody of the so-called morality police. But don’t rule out the possibility of some lower-level discussions about reviving the Iran nuclear deal, even if hopes are low for a breakthrough.
HANDY LINKS:Here’s the full UNGA speakers’ list. And here’s the livestream.
ZELENSKYY PREVIEW: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a taster of his address later today when he addressed the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday.
“You definitely have to choose sides,” Zelenskyy told Clinton during a live video interview at Clinton Global Initiative. “You cannot vacillate between good and evil, light and dark. You cannot remain on the sidelines.”
There aren’t many stages where former U.S. President BillClinton is outshone, especially not when it’s an eponymous event. But Zelenskyy achieved it — in the process reminding the global community that the Clinton Global Initiative can still attract global stars.
ENTENTE CORDIALE: French President Emmanuel Macron and U.K. PM LizTruss met yesterday for the first time since she ruffled feathers by saying “the jury is out” on the nature of their relationship. Esther Webber and Clea, who are on the scene, have a write-up.
Truss moment on the world stage: Truss is expected to use her speech today to double down on her new economic mantra — a kind of Reagonomics 2.0 — and make the case for an “economic NATO.” But it is unlikely to get much shrift with Biden, who just this week said he was “sick and tired” of trickle-down economics.
Mass displacement is going to be an annual norm.”
— Queen Rania of Jordan, presenting a choice between migration chaos and “a dignified system.”
“Social media platforms based on a business model that monetizes outrage, anger & negativity are causing untold damage to communities & societies. Hate speech, misinformation & abuse — targeted especially at women and vulnerable groups — are proliferating.” — António Guterres, U.N. secretary general
SPOTTED: The crowd at Goals House continued to party well past 1.30 a.m. — dancing to a DJ under the stars at Tavern on the Green in Central Park.
UNGA BUZZWORDS: Keep an eye out for discussion of a “social progress recession” — a term being bandied about UNGA circles to describe how the world is falling off track in efforts to reach the U.N. Global Goals, including because of rights rollbacks in dozens of countries.
FAKE GREEN WALLS: There’s a lot of plastic foliage being used as decoration at UNGA-themed events, including at the Earthshot Innovation Summit.
MISSING MASKS: The U.N. is sending a message to the journalists it agreed to accredit for UNGA (plenty have been turned down), written in bright red, stating “Masks will be required during UNGA.” But, dear reader, mask-wearers are in the minority within the U.N. HQ.
GOOD NEWS FOR THE U.N.: The United Nations is popular globally — hurrah! That’s the takeaway from new research from Morning Consult, which found that a majority of people in 27 out of 43 countries held favorable views of the international body. Full details here:
BAD NEWS FOR THE U.N.: In the United States only 47 percent expressed positive views. Republicans are more likely to favor decreased policy coordination through international organizations, while Democrats favor more robust multilateralism.
ELECTION! Biden made the unusual move Tuesday of issuing a statement saying he “strongly supports” a State Department effort to elect American Doreen Bogdan-Martin as secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union, a U.N. specialized agency with a key role in internet, mobile and landline governance. Bogdan-Martin is the only woman in the ITU’s 153-year history to hold an elected office at the body (she is currently in a director-level position at the ITU).
Between the lines: This is a determined effort to oust China’s Houlin Zhao from the top role, after two terms.
(ANOTHER) NEW FORUM: Atlanticism is back — well, at least that’s according to a joint statement released Tuesday by coastal countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The group of U.N. members, from the United States to Angola, Mauritania to Ireland, have renewed their commitment to a “peaceful, prosperous, open, and cooperative Atlantic region.” The initiative focuses on everything from environmental sustainability to tackling people-smuggling, narcotics-trafficking and pirating in the ocean.
— High-level event on “Women in conflicts,” hosted by European Council President CharlesMichel on addressing violence against girls, 2 p.m.
— Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, hosted by U.N. Secretary General AntónioGuterres.
— UNICEF / USAID event on child malnutrition, chaired by UNICEF and USAID Administrator SamanthaPower.
— Bloomberg Philanthropies hosts the Earthshot Innovation Summit, Race to Zero and Resilience Forum at the Plaza Hotel. Speakers include New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Jordan’s Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, U.S. Ambassador to Australia CarolineKennedy, Jane Goodall, EU Green Deal chief FransTimmermans, and BillGates.
— Concordia Summit, livestream here.
— Clinton Global Initiative.
— Climate Week NYC.
— Goals House, at Tavern on the Green.
— Opening of the “Russian War Crimes” exhibition at the Ukrainian Institute of America. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal is attending, 5:30 p.m.
— The Bring Our Families Home Campaign, led by family members of Americans wrongfully detained abroad, will hold a rally at the U.S. mission to the U.N., 1.15 p.m.
THANKS TO: Clea Caulcutt, Esther Webber, Cristina Gonzalez, Nahal Toosi, our editors Emma Anderson and James Randerson, and producer Mallory Culhane.
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