In his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, U.S. President Joe Biden touted his success in uniting much of the world against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden said Ukraine is on the front line of the global battle between democracies and autocracies, and that democracy will prevail.
With Putin ratcheting up attacks on major Ukrainian cities such as Kharkiv and Kyiv, Biden stood in the House chamber and told Americans the free world is united against Putin’s aggression.
“The free world is holding him accountable,” Biden said. “Along with 27 members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy, as well as countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and many others, even Switzerland are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been.”
Biden said Putin badly miscalculated when he launched a full-scale invasion of his neighbor, meeting “a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined” instead of a world that would “roll over.”
“He thought he could divide us at home in this chamber and this nation. He thought he could divide us in Europe as well, but Putin was wrong. We are ready, we are united, and that’s what we did,” Biden said.
The U.S. leader listed some of the major actions the United States and other governments have taken in response to Russia’s invasion, including sanctions against the country’s financial system, a new U.S. Justice Department task force targeting Russian oligarchs, a ban on Russian flights within U.S. air space and direct support to Ukraine in the form of military, economic and humanitarian aid.
“In the battle between democracy and autocracies, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security,” Biden said. “This is a real test. It’s going to take time. So let us continue to draw inspiration from the iron will of the Ukrainian people.”
Among the topics not discussed in the address was the chaotic departure of U.S.-led NATO forces from Afghanistan last August. But in the Republican response to Biden’s speech, Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa blasted the president for what she called his failure there.
“The disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal did more than cost American lives; it betrayed our allies and emboldened our enemies,” Reynolds said.
Experts said in light of the current crisis, it makes sense that Biden devoted his foreign policy part of the speech to Ukraine, even though much there remains uncertain.
“So now it’s a moment where I think Biden thus far has proved a lot of his experience and value, but it all depends on how things play out in Ukraine,” Brian Katulis, vice president of policy at the Middle East Institute, told VOA.
Another expert told VOA the strong positive, bipartisan response Biden received on his Ukraine remarks will be noticed in Moscow.
“And foreign policy wise, that’s a very important signal,” said Michael Kimmage, professor of history at the Catholic University of America and fellow at the German Marshall Fund. “Putin will be looking for any kind of division or vulnerability in American politics. I think everybody in the room, not just Biden, but everybody in the room knew this is not the moment to send that signal.”
President Biden again made clear the United States will not send troops into Ukraine, but vowed that he and the other members of the NATO alliance will defend NATO territory.
“For that purpose, we have mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, ship deployments to protect NATO countries including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia,” Biden said. “As I have made crystal clear, the United States and our Allies will defend every inch of territory that is NATO territory with the full force of our collective power. Every single inch.”