President Biden on Tuesday delivered his first State of the Union address under the cloud of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, projecting unity among U.S. lawmakers and allies abroad and calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“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.
“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 at home, in this chamber, in this nation. He thought he could divide us in Europe as well,” Biden said. “Putin was wrong. We are ready. We are united.”
Biden spent the first 10 minutes of his 62-minute address to Congress speaking about the unfolding crisis in Europe before turning to domestic priorities such as addressing inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
He used the address to announce plans to ban Russian aircraft from American airspace, joining the European Union and Canada in taking such a step, and highlighted a move by the U.S. and 30 countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves to address energy price spikes driven by the conflict.
“We stand ready to do more as necessary, united with our allies,” Biden said. “I want you to know, we’re going to be OK.”
“When the history of this era is written, Putin’s war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger,” Biden said.
Biden’s rhetoric on Ukraine, and particularly his recognition of the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States sitting next to the first lady, drew bipartisan applause as he vowed to remain tough on Putin. Members of both parties donned blue and yellow, a nod to the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Other parts of the address drew much more partisan reactions.
When Biden denounced tax cuts for wealthy Americans passed during the Trump administration, Democrats jeered. Republican applause was sparse as Biden launched into plans for his domestic agenda for the coming year, and some Republicans chanted “Build that wall” as Biden spoke about immigration.
The president sought to rebut Republican criticism in the days leading up to the address that Biden had set the economy back, pointing to record high inflation that was hurting consumers and middle-class families in particular.