President Joe Biden used his State of the Union address on Tuesday to attack Russian President Vladimir Putin for the “premeditated and unprovoked” invasion of Ukraine as the U.S. plans to close its air space to Russian aircraft.
The closure of U.S. airspace to Russian planes follows a similar move by European and Canadian officials Sunday.
“Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated,” Biden said. “He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead he met a wall of strength he never imagined. He met the Ukrainian people.”
Following the sixth day of the Russian assault on Ukraine, Biden sought to highlight the unity between the U.S. and its NATO allies in their response to Russia, saying Putin had underestimated the strength of the NATO alliance.
“Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever,” Biden said. “Together with our allies we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions. We are cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system.”
“Putin’s war was premeditated and unprovoked. He rejected efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. And he thought he could divide us here at home,” Biden said. “Putin was wrong. We were ready.”
The annual prime-time address, which typically provides a president with one of his biggest television audiences of the year, followed another bloody day of fighting, in which Russia hit major cities across Ukraine with increasingly heavy shelling. Meanwhile, a vast convoy of Russian forces threatened the capital, Kyiv.
The speech comes at a pivotal moment for Biden, both at home and abroad. Among recent presidents, only his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, went before Congress with a lower approval rating, with voters giving Biden low marks on his leadership style to his handling of the economy.
The address may mark Biden’s last opportunity to make the case for his domestic policy agenda before a Congress controlled by his own party, with many Democrats facing tough fights in the midterms.
The president’s team had been reworking his remarks in recent days to more heavily emphasize the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. White House press secretary Jen Psaki, in an interview with MSNBC this week, compared the moment to the remarks before Congress by President Barack Obama during the financial crisis or the speech President George W. Bush gave after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, attended the address as a guest of first lady Jill Biden, seated in her viewing box.