President Joe Biden vowed to continue to support the Ukrainian military and punish Russian leadership in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, proclaiming that “freedom will always triumph over tyranny.”
With fighting in Eastern Europe entering its second week, Biden praised the spirit of the Ukrainian fighters and said that his administration will continue to provide military, economic and humanitarian assistance in coming weeks.
“We are giving more than $1 billion in direct assistance to Ukraine,” Biden said. “And we will continue to aid the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and to help ease their suffering.”
As he has in recent weeks, Biden promised that American military forces “are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine.”
However, the American president said that Russia’s latest invasion of its neighbor has strengthened the NATO alliance instead of weakening it. About 14,000 American troops have been activated in recent weeks for support missions through Europe, and Biden said even more could be on the way.
“Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west,” he said. “For that purpose we’ve mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, and ship deployments to protect NATO countries including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
“The United States and our allies will defend every inch of territory of NATO countries with the full force of our collective power.”
Earlier on Tuesday, international observers reported that Russian forces were slowly advancing on the Ukrainian capitol of Kyiv but facing a stronger-than-expected resistance from the Ukrainian military and new civilian volunteers pressed into combat service.
Punishments for Russia include a host of economic sanctions against Russian oligarchs and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. Biden also announced on Tuesday night a new move to close off U.S. air space to all Russian flights in hopes of “further isolating Russia.”
He warned the American people that the moves will have economic consequences for the country, especially in regards to gas and energy prices.
“This is a real test. It’s going to take time,” he said. “So let us continue to draw inspiration from the iron will of the Ukrainian people.”
The ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, Oksana Markarova, watched the address from the first lady’s viewing area in the House gallery and received a standing ovation when Biden asked the assembled lawmakers to show their support for the people of Ukraine.
In addition, numerous lawmakers wore blue and yellow as a sign of support for the country’s fight against Russia and held up small Ukrainian flags throughout the evening.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.