After Russia stepped up its attacks on Ukrainian cities, Biden said during his State of the Union address in both houses of Congress on Tuesday that he “did not know what was coming.”
The move on Capitol Hill is a clear sign of Washington’s bipartisan support for Ukraine, as well as the recent imposition of strong sanctions on Russia and Putin.
Democrat and Republican lawmakers applauded Biden when he asked the Ukrainian people for that “identity”, and noted that US Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova was in the room with First Lady Jill Biden.
However, despite the US military and economic assistance to Ukraine, the president’s speech was a reminder of the limits drawn by the White House in dealing with the armed conflict in Europe.
“I say clearly: Our forces do not engage in conflict with Russian forces in UkraineBiden said.
“Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but if Putin decides to push further west, to protect our NATO allies,” he added.
He said the United States and its allies “will defend every inch of NATO territory with full force.”
But Biden acknowledged the “courage” of the Ukrainians in fighting for their country, pointing out that “the next few days, weeks and months will be difficult for them.”
In the past, other US presidents clashed with Putin for different reasons.
For example, when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, then-President Barack Obama warned that “costs” would be imposed on Moscow.
But the sanctions used for that operation and for Russia’s war on Russia’s oil businesses, financiers and individuals in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine have been much lighter than those recently resolved by the United States and its allies.
Biden recalled These penalties seek to exclude the largest Russian banks from the International Monetary Fund And prevents the Russian central bank from sinking $ 630 billion in reserves to stabilize its currency.
The ruble depreciated by 30% and the Russian stock market had to close, Biden told Congress.
“Russia’s economy is faltering and Putin is the only one responsible,” he said.
It is unusual for Biden to refer to Putin as one “Dictator”He already had that stamp on him when he was Obama’s vice president in 2016 and when Russia intervened in the US election that Donald Trump won.
However he acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Biden’s government.
The two leaders held a private meeting in Geneva last June, after which Biden said he saw opportunities for improvement in relations with Russia.
However, now the conflict between the two is reminiscent of the most tense moments of the Cold War.
The Russian president put his country’s nuclear forces on high alert a few days ago in response to what he called “NATO leaders'” aggression statements “about Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Biden addressed the crisis in Ukraine at the beginning of his annual speech to Congress, which began with domestic American issues rather than the first and traditionally international affairs of his tenure.
He solved the problem by making sure that “Freedom will always triumph over tyranny”.
“We have learned this lesson throughout our history: when dictators do not pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They continue. Costs and threats to the United States and the world are increasing,” he said.
He also argued that the Russian president had launched a planned attack on Ukraine, but that it had been “miscalculated.”
“He thought the West and NATO would not respond. And he thought it might divide us,” he said. “Putin made a mistake. We were ready.”
A special moment
Some analysts have praised Biden’s response to Putin, seeking unity among US allies without resorting to direct military confrontation with Russia.
William Colston, a public policy expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, says “President Biden’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine was his best moment as president.”
“The West is more united than most pessimists said a few weeks ago, and there’s something to do with Biden’s performance,” Colston told BBC Mundo.
As noted by the applause he received in Congress for his views on Ukraine, Biden also has broad national support for the actions he has taken against Moscow.
Three out of four Americans support sanctions against Russia and PutinAccording to a CBS News poll released this week.
In addition, 65% support sending arms to Ukraine and 63% agree to send troops to defend Washington’s allies in NATO.
But in a politically polarized country like the United States, the question is how long that support will last.
Biden has been gaining popularity since taking office last year, and his approval rating varies from 44% to 37%, according to various polls.
Democrats and Republicans are demanding a ban on oil imports from Russia in the run-up to the election.
This is a particularly sensitive issue for the United States, which is facing the highest inflation rate in 40 years (7.5%), and oil prices are already rising due to the conflict in Europe.
If the war continues for months, the United States and the world economy will suffer further consequences.
“Fiden has a chance to convince the American people that the sacrifices for freedom and democracy in the world are worthwhile,” says Colston.
“Most likely, the economic consequences of the measures taken will be negative. But I think Americans are now ready to accept them,” he added.
“If things get worse, will they do it in three or four months? I don’t know.”
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