Analysis: Biden’s State of the Union Statement sends powerful message to Zelensky and Putin

Analysis: Biden’s State of the Union Statement sends powerful message to Zelensky and Putin

Analysis: Biden's State of the Union Statement sends powerful message to Zelensky and Putin

Biden’s address — and an almost unheard-of show of unity amid the bitter divisions of Congress — was also a choreographed statement of resolve to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who shook the world with a nuclear saber rattling and unleashed Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II. Second war.

“In the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracy is rising to the point and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security – this is the real test,” Biden said, but warned that there was a long fight ahead, adding: It will take time.

Biden’s portrayal of the Ukraine conflict as the start of an epochal struggle for freedoms threatened by dictators has highlighted one of the key themes of his presidency. It also almost exactly matches the pleas of Zelenskiy, who has become an iconic global figure, vowing to defend his country.

Earlier, the Ukrainian president told CNN’s Matthew Chance in a rare interview that while the conflict is regional, its repercussions are universal.

“(Biden) is one of the world leaders, and it is very important that the people of the United States understand (that), despite the fact that the war is going on in Ukraine… this is a war for the values ​​of democracy, freedom,” Zelensky said.

It was the call that Biden answered. The President addressed the House of Representatives at a time when his presidency is suffering from falling approval ratings, high inflation, soaring gasoline prices and exhaustion from the pandemic, which is now in its third year.

He sought to extend the sense of personal power and national unity evident in the confrontation with Russia to support his troubled domestic agendas, portraying the nation on the brink of job creation and prosperity, rejuvenation.

“I know this nation. We will stand the test, defend freedom and freedom, expand justice and opportunity. And we will save democracy,” the President said in a crescendo of his speech.

“Go get them!” he roared, apparently improvising, after he had defined the state of the country as “strong.”

Biden’s speech was one of his most confident arguments in favor of his agenda as he corrected ex-president Donald Trump’s derided “infrastructure weeks” by saying his new bipartisan law created a “decade of infrastructure” by vowing to fight opioid abuse and fund the police. — don’t protect them.

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But the stony faces of Republican senators as he turned to domestic politics highlighted the country’s deep political divisions that threaten to turn this year’s midterm elections into a disaster for Democrats.

Apparent disagreements on issues as diverse as tax policy, gun control, abortion and health care costs only made the apparent uniformity of stance toward Russia in the House of Representatives, where many MPs wore the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine, all the more striking. In a chamber that has recently witnessed a vicious mistrust between Republicans and Democrats during the pandemic, there is indeed a sense of the “wall of power” that Biden said Putin faced around the world as rival lawmakers stood up to applaud the president.

historical moment

After Biden entered the House of Representatives, it quickly became clear that Putin had accomplished the almost impossible task of uniting most of Washington’s strongly opposed factions around a new common enemy and common cause.

“Throughout our history, we have learned this lesson: when dictators do not pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They continue to operate,” Biden said.

Unity in the House of Representatives is even more surprisingly aligned with the shared approach of America’s NATO allies as the democratic world, outraged by Putin’s attempt to suppress freedom, rallied around Ukraine with the harshest sanctions and punishments ever imposed. to a major power. Much of the credit for this success goes to Biden, who spent weeks coaxing allies like Germany into startling shifts in their Russia policy.

Biden quickly assumed the role of leader of the free world, a pose familiar to presidents from the decades-long Cold War that ended in the defeat of the Soviet Union, which Putin is seeking to avenge. He hailed the Russian leader’s inability to separate the Americans and Western allies over the invasion, and detailed the suffocating sanctions that have shaken the Russian banking system and economy. And he warned the oligarchs, whose wealth has skyrocketed in Putin’s two decades in power, that he will come after them “unfairly.”

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Biden spoke to an audience, far from just legislators and Americans watching on TV.

Although Putin’s spokesman insisted that the Russian president would not watch, the entire Ukraine section of the speech was intended to signal U.S. and Western ruthless determination towards the Russian leader. And he called on lawmakers to stand and applaud Ukraine’s ambassador to Washington, who was a guest of First Lady Jill Biden, to honor the courage of her people.

“Putin was wrong. We are ready. We are united… We remain united,” Biden said, warning that the Russian leader was more isolated than ever and that he had miscalculated badly.

To Americans concerned about Putin’s nuclear rhetoric and the impact of the war on gas prices, Biden said “We’ll be fine” and stressed that he would not send US troops to fight the Russians in Ukraine, but left no doubt that the US would staunchly defend its NATO allies, including in Eastern Europe.

But Biden also warned that the fight to save democracy from autocracy, which also fuels the growing US confrontation with China, will be a long one.

“When the history of this era is written, Putin’s war with Ukraine will make Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger,” he said.

Fighting for Democracy at Home and Abroad

Biden’s speech offered a historic turning point that can be compared to other great presidential moments before a joint session of Congress, such as President Franklin Roosevelt’s request for a declaration of war on Japan in 1941, or Harry Truman’s creation of a doctrine of US support for free peoples before a joint session of Congress in 1947. Truman’s speech laid the foundation for Cold War politics in a decades-long ideological struggle against the Soviet Union, a plan Biden revived Tuesday for a new era.

Even more poignantly, Biden was speaking from a House seat desecrated just over a year ago by Trump insurgents. Their rampage showed that the fight for democracy is not just some abstract concept discussed in a war from a thousand miles away, but also raging at home.

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Broad support in the House of Representatives for Biden’s defense of the values ​​of the free world is running parallel in the country. A new CNN/SSRS poll shows that 83% of respondents are in favor of tougher sanctions against Russia after the invasion, even if only 42% are even moderately confident that Biden will make the right decisions in the conflict.

While Biden’s speech was a glorification of a global united front against Putin — it sounded like a battle cry but could be seen by Russians as overly triumphant, facing spiraling inflation due to global sanctions — it did not point to a way out of the crisis. conflict. There was no point in the president trying to chart a diplomatic outlet for the Russian leader, or suggesting that a change in behavior in Moscow could lead to an easing of suffocating sanctions.

It is also noteworthy that the President did not explicitly mention Putin’s decision to put the Russian nuclear arsenal on high alert amid concerns about such a mood in Western capitals. Clearly, Biden didn’t want to further irritate the Russian leader.

He moved after Ukraine to address the high prices and slowing supply chain that have been troubling many Americans for weeks – saying at one point, “I get it,” referring to the suffering of high inflation.

Given the national polarization exacerbated by Trump’s incessant lies that Biden is an illegitimate commander in chief and the tough headwinds Democrats faced in November, this State of the Union speech is unlikely to rekindle Biden’s political fortunes. But in the coming decades, this address is likely to be remembered as the moment when the West was reborn in the face of a new, potentially long-term threat to democracy from tyranny.

“The time has come. Our moment of responsibility. Our test of determination and conscience, history itself,” Biden said, finishing his speech. “It is at this moment that (the) character of this generation is formed, our purpose is found, our future is forged.”

“Well, I know this nation. We will pass this test.”