U.S. President Joe Biden in his Presidential State of the Union address on Monday called his administration’s support to Ukraine a major foreign policy success and proof of America’s ability to build effective coalitions among democratic nations.
But Russia’s brutal invasion of a European state and the bloodiest and most destructive war the world has seen since the 1940s was far from a top theme of the U.S. leader’s annual message to Congress made on Monday. By most standards, it closely resembled an afterthought.
Biden’s comments on the Kremlin assault used language in lockstep with U.S. State Department boilerplate, saying “America will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes.”
The president argued that U.S. superpower support to Ukraine over the past 12 months is proof positive that the America stands up to dictators and is serious about protecting people’s right to freedom and democracy.
“Putin’s invasion has been a test for the ages. A test for America. A test for the world. Would we stand for the most basic of principles? Would we stand for sovereignty? Would we stand for the right of people to live free from tyranny?,” Biden said.
“One year later, we know the answer. Yes, we would. And yes, we did. Together, we did what America always does best. We led. We united NATO and built a global coalition. We stood against Putin’s aggression,” he emphasized.
Biden’s remarks on Ukraine, the Russian invasion and the U.S. response were sandwiched between those on abortion and relations between Washington and Beijing. The Ukraine section of his speech drew polite applause from both Democrats and Republicans present. Some rose to their feet for a few seconds.
Not foreign policy but domestic issues – jobs and unemployment, the COVID-19 response, inflation, high tech manufacturing, healthcare, natural disaster response, tax reform, protection of Social Security and Medicare, widening pre-school education, gun law, veteran suicide and even unfair hotel resort fees and airline baggage tariffs were the dominant themes of Biden’s address.
Passages of wide-reaching bipartisan legislation on issues directly affecting U.S. voters is the administration’s greatest accomplishment, he pointed out.
Biden’s comment on the war in Ukraine was, in statistical terms, somewhere between perfunctory and almost irrelevant: less than 250 words and 130 seconds in a 72,000+ word speech that took the U.S. leader almost 75 minutes to deliver.
Biden’s references to laws on toxic burn pit regulation, state support to semiconductor manufacturing, infrastructure renovation, national high-speed internet, police reform and federal level support to abortion drew standing ovations and cheers from most Congress members.
The only standing Congressional ovation on foreign policy – an energetic one with some legislators chanting “U.S.A.” – came after Biden claimed his administration had proved to the world “It is never a good time to bet against America.”
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