President Joe Biden opened his State of the Union address with an all-out attack on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, framing the conflict in Ukraine as a battle between “light” and “darkness.” He pledged to “save democracy” and closed his remarks with an exhortation to Ukrainian troops, saying “go get him” while shaking his fist – likely referencing Putin.
The anti-Russian portion of the speech drew loud and frequent cheers from the galley of blue and yellow-clad congressmen, all as Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States was prominently seated next to the first lady.
Biden said there is strong global support for Ukraine and that Putin’s Russia had been isolated from the world, touting a recent round of sanctions that targeted Russian banks. He also announced a campaign targeting the assets of wealthy Russians living abroad.
The president expressed support for the “proud” Ukrainian people, and while he vowed to send additional aid, Biden again emphasized that the US would not defend the country with its own forces.
NATO unity took center stage in the anti-Russia tirade, with Biden calling to deploy more US forces to defend the territory of member states. He added that Putin may extend his military operation beyond Ukraine and seek conquest elsewhere in Europe, saying “when dictators don’t pay a price, they keep going.”
Biden argued that Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has made NATO stronger than ever and that a review of the current historical era will show a Russia in decline. With NATO’s refusal to back up Ukraine with direct military reinforcement, it appears the West hopes to weaken the Kremlin with the blood of Ukrainians and exploit fears generated by the war to prod other European states to become more militaristic toward Moscow.
Biden claimed the conflict in Ukraine as the sole fault of Putin and Washington’s overtures for diplomacy with Moscow were met with a stone wall – though his administration made virtually no effort to meet reasonable Russian security requests.
While he made few substantial announcements during the mostly rhetorical address, the president did declare the American airspace would be closed to all Russian craft, following suit after the European Union and other Western allies took similar steps.
In a bit of good news, Biden pledged to do more for victims of the burn pits – military waste disposal sites known to have conferred a range of debilitating diseases to soldiers. While he has thus far disappointed those pressing for justice on the issue, Biden acknowledged on Tuesday night that his own son may have died of cancer caused by a toxic burn pit, which could be a sign that he will take the issue seriously.