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Biden to give annual address laying out foreign policy agenda to a global audience

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

President Biden is at the United Nations in New York today.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

He's giving his annual address laying out his foreign policy agenda to a global audience, and top of mind is support for a Ukraine defending itself against Russia. But there are big questions about how long U.S. support can continue.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith is there. So let's start with a bit of a roll call. China, Russia, France and the U.K. are not attending this year. So, Tamara, it sounds like President Biden has the U.N. stage pretty much to himself.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yeah, this does mean he has less competition for his message, and what he's planning to share is his vision about U.S. leadership in the world and also what global cooperation should look like. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan characterized the U.S. role this way.

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JAKE SULLIVAN: We see at this point a strong demand signal for more American engagement, for more American investment, for more American presence across all continents and all corners of the world.

KEITH: But of course, the 2024 presidential campaign is heating up, and many of Biden's would-be opponents, including the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, have very different views about the value of U.S. engagement in the world and even what American democracy should look like.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, and certainly Ukraine is one of those areas. What do you expect to hear from the president on Ukraine?

KEITH: Well, this time last year, when President Biden spoke at the U.N., the war in Ukraine was still relatively new. Now he's speaking as it has dragged on for another year with no end in sight. And he's going to make a strong pitch to the nations of the world to remain resolute in support of Ukraine's right to sovereignty. But as Leila said, there are questions hanging over the sustainability of U.S. support in terms of weapons and economic aid.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, 'cause there's an outstanding request to Congress for more funding for Ukraine.

KEITH: That's right. The White House has asked Congress for another $24 billion in support of Ukraine's war effort. And White House officials insist that there really is a bipartisan coalition that exists to keep that funding coming. But have you seen Congress lately? House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing open threats from within his conference to oust him from leadership. The government is set to run out of spending authority at the end of the month. There is no clear path to passing a budget at this point, and many far-right House Republicans are balking at the idea of giving additional money to Ukraine. All of that puts President Biden in this awkward and yet quite familiar position of standing up on the world stage and saying, don't worry, guys, America is good for it, when all signs point to instability and uncertainty on the domestic political front. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is going to be speaking to the U.N. today, and then he's heading to Washington later this week to make his own pitch for continued funding.

MARTÍNEZ: So already that's a lot. But there is more on the president's plate while he's in New York.

KEITH: That's right. He will be the first U.S. president to meet with the leaders of the nations known as the C5. That is the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. They are neighbors of Russia and China, and this is all about the U.S. signaling that it wants to be engaged in that neighborhood too. There are also a couple of interesting leader meetings happening on the sidelines. Biden is set to meet with the Brazilian president and labor leaders right in the midst of this United Auto Workers strike. And then President Biden is also meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, someone he hasn't met with since Netanyahu won election again with a new, more conservative coalition.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks a lot, Tamara.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.