By Lucia Leal
Washington, Mar 1 (EFE).- United States President Joe Biden promised Tuesday that he will “save democracy” from the challenges faced inside and outside the country, and that his Russian counterpart will “pay” for his invasion of Ukraine.
The war in Ukraine was the focus of part of Biden’s first State of the Union address, in which he announced his decision to close US airspace to Russian flights, as Canada and the European Union have done.
“[Russian president Vladimir] Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been,” the president said before lawmakers from both houses of US Congress.
“[He] has unleashed violence and chaos. But while he may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run.”
Biden assured that his measures and those of US allies will succeed in suffocating the Russian economy, and announced that the Justice Department will take more measures to go after the crimes of oligarchs that allow the Kremlin to finance its war.
“We are joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets. We are coming for you,” he said.
The president usually describes international relations as a battle between democracies and autocracies, and in his speech he opined that the former are “rising to the moment” with regard to Ukraine.
“The world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security,” Biden stressed.
He said that Putin “may circle Kyiv with tanks but it will never gain the hearts and souls of the Iranian people. He will never extinguish their love of freedom, and he will never, never weaken the resolve of the free world.”
“(Putin) badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead, he was met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met the Ukrainian people,” Biden said.
He also assured that he has tried to minimize the impact of the war in the US with measures such as the release of 30 million barrels of crude oil from its strategic reserves, and made a promise to the Americans: “We are going to be OK.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine forced Biden to rewrite part of his State of the Union address, and the topic drew the only bipartisan applause of the night, including one for Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oskana Markarova, who was present.
However, Biden only dedicated about 10 minutes of the hour to Ukraine: the November legislative elections and his own drop in popularity in the polls motivated him to focus on internal issues.
The rising cost of living is the primary concern for voters, and Biden assured them that he has a plan to tackle inflation by cutting costs, “not your wages.”
“My top priority is getting prices under control,” Biden said of inflation, which is soaring in the US to levels not seen in more than 40 years.
He insisted on the need to reduce the prices of energy, medicines and child care, in addition to manufacturing more products domestically.
However, he did not expressly ask that Congress approve his social spending plan, valued at $1.75 trillion, which many in the Senate already considers dead.
And his argument did not convince the Republican opposition. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds accused him in a subsequent speech of having “sent us back in time to the late ’70s and early ’80s (…) when runaway inflation was hammering families, a violent crime wave was crashing on our cities, and the Soviet army was trying to redraw the world map.”
There was also a boo from the Democratic caucus to the Republicans when conservative congresswoman Lauren Boebert yelled at Biden, saying he had put 13 American soldiers in coffins.