In his first State of the Union address since taking office more than a year ago, President Joe Biden inspired bi-partisan applause for the determination of the Ukrainian people against the Russian onslaught and said the United States stands with Ukraine in its struggle.
The president used the first part of the State of the Union address to a stress that America will stand against dictators.
"Six days ago, Russia's Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways, but he badly miscalculated," Biden said. "He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he met a wall of strength he never imagined: He met the Ukrainian people."
Biden praised the Ukrainian people for their "fearlessness, their courage, their determination." He said their stand against the Russian invaders "inspires the world."
The halls of Congress were brightened by representatives, senators and guests wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag. It was truly a bipartisan moment when Biden asked the assembled legislators to applaud the courageous stand of 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," the president said. "They keep moving. And the costs and the threats to America and the world keep rising."
This was why the allies founded the NATO alliance in the ashes of World War II. The defensive alliance was to bring stability and peace to a war-ravaged continent, where millions died in the insanity of Hitler's war.
NATO is still relevant. It is unified against Putin and his invasion. "It matters," Biden said. "American diplomacy matters. American resolve matters."
Biden condemned Putin's latest premeditated attack on Ukraine and said the Russian leader rejected repeated efforts at diplomacy. "He thought the West and NATO wouldn't respond," Biden said. "And he thought he could divide us at home. Putin was wrong. We were ready."
In the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security."
President Joe Biden
The president told the legislators that America and its allies were ready for Putin. "We spent months building a coalition of other freedom-loving nations from Europe and the Americas to Asia and Africa to confront Putin," he said. "I spent countless hours unifying our European allies."
The United States and its allies and partners shared with the world "what we knew Putin was planning and precisely how he would try to falsely justify his aggression. We countered Russia's lies with truth," he said. "And now that he has acted the free world is holding him accountable."
The United States, the nations of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Canada, Korea, New Zealand and even historically neutral Switzerland are acting against Putin.
"We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine," Biden said. "Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever."
The allies are enforcing sanctions against Russia that have already had effects. "We are cutting off Russia's largest banks from the international financial system," he said. "We are choking off Russia's access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come."
Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders will suffer from these sanctions as the United States joins with European allies "to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains," the president said.
The president announced another sanction. "We will join our allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights — further isolating Russia — and adding an additional squeeze on their economy," he said. "The ruble has lost 30 percent of its value. The Russian stock market has lost 40 percent of its value and trading remains suspended. Russia's economy is reeling, and Putin alone is to blame."
The United States and its allies will continue to provide support for Ukraine. Military, economic and humanitarian aid will flow into the country, he said.
Biden also spoke about the American forces deploying to Europe to reassure NATO allies. "Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies — in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west," Biden said. "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."
He made it clear that the United States takes the NATO Treaty seriously and that an attack on one NATO ally is an attack on all. "I have made crystal clear the United States and our allies will defend every inch of territory of NATO countries with the full force of our collective power," he said.
The Ukrainian people will suffer at the hands of Putin. Economic sanctions will take weeks or months to take effect. In the meantime, Russia has unleashed more than 100,000 troops into Ukraine. "Putin has unleashed violence and chaos," the president said. "But while he may make gains on the battlefield — he will pay a continuing high price over the long run."
Putin's war on Ukraine will leave Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger, the president said.
"We see the unity among leaders of nations and a more unified Europe, a more unified West," Biden said. "And we see unity among the people who are gathering in cities in large crowds around the world even in Russia to demonstrate their support for Ukraine.
"In the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security," he 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."