Joe Biden Warns Vladimir Putin: 'Freedom Will Always Triumph Over Tyranny'

In his first State of the Union address, the president said Russian leader Vladimir Putin underestimated the unity of U.S. society and America's foreign friends.

The invasion of Ukraine shows that America must commit to standing with allies and friends abroad to ultimately overcome adversaries, President Joe Biden said in his first State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move was the latest evidence that “when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. And the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising.”

Through the U.S. and allied response, Putin will ultimately find that he “badly miscalculated,” Biden continued. Addressing lawmakers ― “as Democrats Republicans and independents, but most importantly as Americans ― he said the nation shares “an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny.”

The message underscores a long-running theme of Biden’s recent political career: that the U.S. must engage on the world stage in partnership with other governments and that foreign policy is inseparable from challenges at home, such as economic inequality and fossil fuel dependence.

Biden used his speech not only to send additional warnings to Putin and his inner circle but also to tout some of the success his administration has had in gathering intelligence and leading the international reaction to the invasion.

Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), a Ukrainian American, wearing the Ukrainian flag colors, waits for the start of President Joe Biden's State of the Union address Tuesday before a joint session of Congress.
Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), a Ukrainian American, wearing the Ukrainian flag colors, waits for the start of President Joe Biden's State of the Union address Tuesday before a joint session of Congress.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

“We prepared extensively and carefully,” Biden recounted. “We spent months building a coalition of other freedom-loving nations from Europe and the Americas, to Asia and Africa, to confront Putin. I spent countless hours unifying our European allies. We shared with the world in advance what we knew Putin was planning and precisely how he would try to falsely justify his aggression. We countered Russia’s lies with truth.”

Biden persuaded America’s partners abroad to take unprecedented steps to pressure Putin to change course, including cutting Russian banks out of the global financial system and barring vital technology transfers to Russia. All the while, he has been clear that the U.S. and its allies do not want an all-out war with Moscow ― and will not fight in Ukraine with their own forces even as they send military equipment to the Ukrainians.

Biden has in recent weeks sent thousands of additional forces to eastern European nations that, like Ukraine, were formerly part of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence ― a sign that Putin could ultimately end up feeling even less secure after an assault he said was designed to ensure Russia’s security.

“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,” Biden said.

Praising the NATO military alliance, Biden said, “American diplomacy matters. 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. Putin was wrong. We were ready.”

Biden described sanctions that his administration has already unveiled and outlined steps to implement them, such as seizing the yachts, private jets and luxury apartments of Russian oligarchs who are close to Putin. And the president said the U.S. would join European Union nations in barring access to its airspace for all Russian flights.

Biden also reiterated his warning that showing solidarity with Ukraine may incur an economic toll back in the United States.

“But I want you to know that we are going to be OK.... 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.”

First lady Jill Biden hosted Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., as one of her guests to the high-profile Capitol Hill event.

Biden’s fellow Democrats and a number of outside national security experts have praised his diplomacy on Ukraine and clarity about how the U.S. can help short of military intervention.

“President’s Biden’s aggressive, sure-handed leadership on the Ukraine crisis has been so impressive to watch, and I was glad to hear the president lay out his plan to punish Putin for this war of choice, and make sure Ukraine has what it needs to manage this emergency,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a leading Democratic voice on foreign affairs, said in a statement after the address. The president was forceful in his resolve to continue supporting the brave people of Ukraine, and he’s right: democracy will prevail.”

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