NEW YORK — Countries that refuse to take a side in Russia’s war in Ukraine are “complicit” with Moscow’s “new imperialism,” French President Emmanuel Macron told the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday in an impassioned speech.
“Those who are silent today are serving — whether against their will or secretly with a certain complicity — the cause of a new imperialism,” Macron said.
In some of his strongest comments since the beginning of the war, Macron said Russia’s aggression against Ukraine marked a “return to the age of imperialism and colonies” and said the world faced a choice between “war and peace.”
While Western allies like France have shown a united front against Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, the response has been more muted across Africa and Asia.
Some countries have been reluctant to condemn Russia too forcefully, a trend that has been reflected in voting at the U.N. In April, 58 countries, including India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia, abstained during a vote on a resolution to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Speaking to delegates from across the world, the French president acknowledged the “feeling of injustice” felt by countries that have been hit by the consequences of the war, related to food, energy and their economies. But he also delivered a forceful warning to those who want to remain in a position of “neutrality.”
“I want to say things quite clearly today: Those who want to mimic the struggle of the nonaligned in refusing to express themselves clearly are making a mistake and this will carry a historic responsibility,” he said, in reference to the nonaligned movement during the Cold War.
In an effort to show that France is not indifferent to the impacts of the conflict on poorer countries across the world, Macron also announced in his speech that France would fund the transport of Ukrainian wheat to Somalia, in partnership with the U.N. World Food Programme.
The French president himself has been accused by critics of not supporting Ukraine wholeheartedly, due to his decision to keep lines of communication open with the Kremlin as well as past comments about not wanting to “humiliate” Russia amid the war.
Speaking at the U.N., Macron said he would continue his “dialogue” with Russia in an effort “to return to peace.”
CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to clarify that countries voted in April to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.