By Terrance Turner
March 1, 2022
Tonight, against the shadow of a fiercely fought war between Russia and Ukraine, President Joe Biden delivered the State of the Union address. Introduced by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, he took the stage to a standing ovation. Addressing Congress, President Biden opened with a reference to the elephant in the room — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the neighboring country. The first part of Biden’s speech dealt directly with the war in Ukraine.
‘Last year, Covid-19 kept us apart. This year, we are finally together again. Tonight, we meet as Democrats, Republicans, and Independents,” Biden said. “But most importantly, as Americans. With a duty to one another, to America, to the American people, to the Constitution. And an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny. Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine, and the world would roll over. Instead, he met a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met the Ukrainian people.’
As applause broke out, Biden continued. “From President Zelensky to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination, literally inspires the world,” Biden declared. “Groups of citizens blocking tanks with their bodies. Everyone, from students to retirees to teachers, turned soldiers defending their homeland.”
Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, was in attendance, holding the flag of the country. President Biden asked everyone to stand (if able) and send a message to Ukraine and the world. (they did). she received a sustained standing ovation from the chamber, with members cheering. “She’s bright, she’s strong and she’s resolved,” Biden said, as First Lady Jill Biden reached over and hugged Markarova.
The president declared: “Yes, we, the United States of America, stand with the Ukrainian people.”
“Throughout our history, we’ve learned this lesson: When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving, and the costs and the threats to America and to the world keep rising.
That’s why the NATO alliance was created: to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II. The United States is a member, along with 29 other nations.” (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance between 30 countries, which include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom. They pledge to defend each other if any one of them is attacked. ) ”It matters. American diplomacy matters. American resolve matters.”
President Biden continued: “Putin’s latest attack on Ukraine was premeditated and totally unprovoked. He rejected repeated — repeated — efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. He thought he could divide us at home, in this chamber, and in 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: we stayed united. We prepared extensively and carefully. We spent months building a coalition of other freedom-loving nations in Europe and the Americas to the Asian and African continents to confront Putin. Like many of you, I spent countless hours unifying our European allies. We shared with the world in advance what we knew Putin was planning, and precisely how he would try to falsify and justify his aggression. We countered Russia’s lies with the truth. And now that he has acted, the free world is holding him accountable.
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.
Together, along with our allies, we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions. We are cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system, preventing Russia’s central bank from defending the Russian ruble — making Putin’s $630 billion war fund worthless. We are choking Russia’s access to technology; that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come.
Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: no more. The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We are joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.
And tonight, I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy,” Biden said, to cheers and applause.
“He has no idea what’s coming,” Biden said of Putin. “The ruble has already lost 30 percent of its value. The Russian stock market has lost 40 percent of its value, and trading remains suspended. The Russian economy is reeling, and Putin alone is the one to blame. Together with our allies, we are providing support to the Ukrainians in their fight for freedom. Military assistance. Economic assistance. Humanitarian assistance. We are giving more than $1 billion in direct assistance to Ukraine, and will continue to aid the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and help ease their suffering,” the president vowed.
“But let me be clear: Our forces are not engaged and will not engage in the conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine.”
For that purpose, we’ve mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, and ship deployments to protect NATO countries, including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. And 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.
And we’re clear-eyed. The Ukrainians are fighting back with pure courage. But the next few days, weeks, and months will be hard on them. Putin has unleashed violence and chaos. But while he may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run.
And a proud, proud people, pound-for-pound, ready to fight with every inch of energy they have — they have known 30 years of independence — have repeatedly shown that they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards,” Biden said.