Joe Biden has said the people and the president of Ukraine have inspired the free world and that Vladimir Putin will never be able to weaken its resolve.
On a night when many members of the two chambers of Congress wore something blue or yellow to honour the people of Ukraine – attacked last week by Russian troops, Mr Biden said while their cities may be encircled by Mr Putin’s tanks, he will not be able to capture their hearts.
“In this struggle as President Zelensky said in his speech to the European Parliament “Light will win over darkness.” The Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States is here tonight,” said Mr Biden.
“Let each of us if you’re able to stand, stand and send an unmistakable signal to Ukraine and to the world. Please rise if you are able and show that, Yes, we the United States of America stand with the Ukrainian people.”
He added: “Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression they cause more chaos.”
State of the Union speeches typically get taken up by a nation’s most pressing domestic issues.
Yet on Tuesday night in what was technically his first such address, Mr Biden devoted much of the start of his speech to the crisis in Ukraine.
Noticeably, Democrats and Republicans, increasingly polarised, rose to applaud his support for Ukraine, many waving Ukrainian flags and cheering in the chamber of the House of Representatives. His wife, First Lady Jill Biden sat with Ukraine’s ambassador to watch the address.
: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,” he said.
In a deviation from his prepared remarks, Mr Biden said of the Russian leader: “He has no idea what’s coming.”
He said that Mr Putin believed he would “roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead he met a wall of strength he never imagined”.
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He added: “He met the Ukrainian people. From President Zelenskyy to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination, inspires the world.”
“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. We shared with the world in advance what we knew Putin was planning and precisely how he would try to falsely justify his aggression. We countered Russia’s lies with truth.”
As it was, he fluffed his prepared lines, appearing to say “Iranians” rather than Ukrainians, when said “Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks”, but he will never gain their hearts and souls.
He added: “He will never extinguish their love of freedom. He will never weaken the resolve of the free world.”
Mr Biden did not pretend Ukraine was facing anything less than a life-or-death fight. And he stressed, again that US troops would not be joining them.
But he did point to the coalition of Western allies that had responded – some with unprecedented speed and force, to Mr Putin’s actions.
“We are cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system,” he said.
“Preventing Russia’s central bank from defending the Russian Ruble making Putin’s $630 Billion “war fund” worthless. We are choking off Russia’s access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come.”
He said Ukrainians were “fighting back with pure courage” and that the coming 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,” he said.
“And a proud Ukrainian people, who have known 30 years of independence, have repeatedly shown that they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.”