In a speech on the State of the Union dominated by the internal problems in the United States, the American president began by trying to unite the country around the defense of Ukraine: “When the history of this era is written, Putin’s war will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger.”
The United States has joined the countries that have announced the closure of their airspace to Russian planes, and will use 30 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves to cushion the impact of sanctions applied to Russia, announced the US President, Joe Biden, in his first State of the Union address. At the same time that bombs were falling on Ukrainian cities, in the early hours of Wednesday, Biden was addressing the US Congress, in Washington DC, to say that the Russian President “will pay the price” of the invasion.
“Throughout our history, we’ve learned the lesson that dictators continue to cause chaos when they don’t pay a price for their aggression. The costs and threats, for America and for the world, continue to rise”, said the US President, in a speech focused on domestic policy issues, with an initial part dedicated to the war in Ukraine.
“He thought the West and NATO were not going to respond,” Biden said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “And he thought he could divide us here in our country. But it was wrong. We were prepared,” said the US President, in the only part of the speech that was met with loud applause from the GOP bench.
Praise for the Ukrainian people
Before detailing the economic sanctions and other measures that have already been decided to respond to the Russian invasion, the US President praised “the fearlessness, courage and determination” of the Ukrainian people — represented in the hall of the House of Representatives by the ambassador of Ukraine in Washington DC, Oksana Markarova.
“May each of us send an unequivocal signal to Ukraine and the world,” Biden said, to applause from lawmakers from both parties. “Please stand up if you can, and show that the United States of America stands on the side of the Ukrainian people.”
In addition to the announcement that the US will close its airspace to Russian planes, and that it will use 30 million barrels of oil from its strategic reserves to contain the costs of economic sanctions against Russia (with a further 30 million to be made available by other countries), Biden also announced that the US Department of Justice had created a cabinet “to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs”.
“We are united with our European allies to confiscate the yachts, luxury apartments and private planes [of the Russian oligarchs]. We go after your ill-gotten gains,” Biden said.
Behind the US President, two women were seated for the first time in a State of the Union address: Kamala Harris, US Vice President and President of the Senate; and Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House of Representatives.
In the audience, congressmen from both parties — some in blue and yellow garments, the colors of the Ukrainian flag — as well as representatives from the Biden Administration, the Supreme Court and the military, watched Biden’s speech in an atmosphere still marked by the covid-19 pandemic.
In recent days, medical officials in Congress have dropped the obligation to wear a mask in the building, as has been happening across the country, as the number of cases drops sharply. Still, the imposition of a test at the entrance – which some Republican congressmen did not want to do, preferring to stay at home –, and the distance in the seats, meant that the atmosphere was still far from the crowds of years gone by.
During the speech, the American president tried to use the slowdown of the pandemic as a reason for unity in the country.
“Let’s take this moment to make a reconfiguration. Let’s stop looking at covid as a dividing line between parties, and start seeing it for what it is: a very unpleasant disease. And let’s stop seeing each other as enemies. Let us begin to see ourselves for what we are: compatriots.”
The rare moment of union between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party ended as soon as the American President moved on to the discussion of internal problems in the USA.
In an example of how composure in official acts is a thing of the past in US politics, Republican congresswomen Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) and Lauren Boebert (Colorado) — both from the farthest right faction in their party — chanted “Build the wall” (build the wall) when Biden spoke about delayed reform of immigration policies.
At another point in the speech, when the US President was talking about US soldiers returning to the country “in coffins adorned with the flag”, Boebert shouted “You put them there — 13 of them!”, in reference to the 13 Marines who were killed in the Daesh bombing in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021.
Struggling with rising inflation that jeopardizes strong economic growth and declining unemployment over the past year, and threatened by a low popularity rate since he arrived in the White House, Biden seized the speech — and the opportunity to speak. directly to tens of millions of Americans via television — to explain what he has done so far and what he intends to do in the coming years with the help of Congress.
The problem, for Biden and for the Democratic Party, is that the next congressional elections will be held in November, and the Republican Party has all the conditions to regain majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate. If that happens, the White House legislative agenda will be blocked until the end of Biden’s term in January 2025.
Perhaps that is why the US President made a statement that pleased Republicans and Democrats at the center, and that was not well received by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party: “The answer is not to take funding from the police. The answer is to give more funding to the police,” Biden said — a stance that aimed to undo an image that has been associated with the Democratic Party since the summer of 2020, in the wake of protests against police violence and racism.
To try to counter the rise in inflation, Biden presented a plan that involves lowering costs for citizens, including the price of medicines and monthly fees for kindergartens and homes for the elderly.
More than any other issue, it’s inflation that has pushed Biden’s popularity down. Even though there are more jobs and the economy is growing faster than expected, the rise in prices — caused by increased consumption and breaks in distribution, because of the pandemic — ends up taking the money that Americans have. more in your pockets at the beginning of each month.
The antidote, according to Biden, is to increase production in the United States, so that the products reach the shelves in greater quantities, faster and at less cost to consumers.
“We’re going to buy American products to make sure everything — from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the steel used in separators on highways — is made in America,” Biden said.
Source: with agencies