President Joe Biden’s speech is unlikely to shift the situation in the US Congress, where aid for Ukraine has languished for months. However, Biden reminded Americans that Ukraine’s plight has global consequences and will affect Americans.

The speech began with a dramatic comparison between his situation and the predicament of January 1941, when “President Franklin Roosevelt came to this chamber to speak to the nation,” saying, “I address you at a moment unprecedented in the history of the Union.”

Recalling that moment, Biden said that “Hitler was on the march. War was raging in Europe. President Roosevelt’s purpose was to wake up the Congress and alert the American people that this was no ordinary moment,” as “Freedom and democracy were under assault in the world.”


He said: “Now it is we who face an unprecedented moment in the history of the Union.”

Citing the fact that domestic and international tensions had not been so high since Lincoln was in the White House during the Civil War, the President continued: “Putin of Russia is on the march, invading Ukraine and sowing chaos throughout Europe and beyond.”

Biden warned: “If anybody in this room thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine, I assure you, he will not.”

Twice the President repeated that Ukraine needs weapons, saying that Kyiv is “not asking for American soldiers,” carefully delineating his position from that of some recent European leaders’ comments by saying that “there are no American soldiers at war in Ukraine, and I am determined to keep it that way.”

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Taking a jab at Republicans who are blocking aid to Ukraine, the President reminded his audience: “It wasn’t that long ago when a Republican President, Ronald Reagan, thundered, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’” However, now Trump, “tells Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’”

Expressing shock, he continued: “A former American President actually said that, bowing down to a Russian leader. It’s outrageous. It’s dangerous. It’s unacceptable.”


Highlighting the importance of the NATO alliance, the President appealed to Congress to send the Bipartisan National Security Bill for his signature as “we must stand up to Putin,” because “history is watching.”

Contrasting himself to Trump, the President said: “My message to President Putin is simple: We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down.”

In concluding the part of his speech related to Ukraine, the President reiterated: “If the United States walks away now, it will put Ukraine at risk. Europe at risk. The free world at risk, emboldening others who wish to do us harm.”

Traditionally, the “First Lady’s Box” is filled with guests whom he would use as a prop during his speech to make the case for policy actions that the President is seeking to push. This year, Biden’s invitees were all Americans, with the exception of the Swedish Prime Minister – who earlier in the day had finalized the process for Sweden to join NATO.


In what appears to have been a White House leak, it was revealed that Ukraine’s First Lady had declined to be a guest of the American First Lady at the event amidst news that the White House intended to also invite Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexei Navalny. After the Ukrainian First Lady’s declined the invitation, Navalnaya followed suit.

It is not clear how the refusals to attend may have altered Biden’s speech. However, despite rumors, Biden did not announce any new programs to support Ukraine, nor did he mention Washington’s plans to use Russia’s frozen billions to help Kyiv. At present, Ukraine is facing major shortfalls of weapons and cash, with the Ukrainian Minister of Finance saying that Kyiv requires about $3 billion per month to keep running.

Polling conducted following the speech was not particularly positive. As usual, Democrats reacted very positively, whereas Republicans were less enthusiastic. The poll done by CNN, showed about three quarters of Republicans did not like the speech, which is an increase from the about 60 percent who did not like the speech last year.

Those who loved the speech, 35 percent, was the second lowest rating of a state of the union since 1988, the record-low being Biden’s speech last year that garnered 34 percent.


Aid for Ukraine continues to be stalled in Congress and is unlikely to be freed up in the near term. Efforts to use a “discharge petition,” or to pass a stripped-down bill, have seemingly stalled. Yet some Republican leaders have indicated that they hope a solution will be found before the end of April.

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