'Putin was wrong, we were ready,' Biden's State of the Union address· RNZ
US President Joe Biden has accused Vladimir Putin of having misjudged the West with an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and has touted his plan to fight inflation in his State of the Union address.
Biden led a standing ovation for the embattled Ukrainian people during his speech that he rewrote to assail the Russian president for his aggression.
"Let each of us if you're able to stand, stand and send an unmistakable signal to Ukraine and to the world," Biden said.
Often polarised along partisan lines, Democrats and Republicans rose to applaud his support for Ukraine, many waving Ukrainian flags and cheering in the chamber of the House of Representatives at his first formal State of the Union speech.
In a deviation from his prepared remarks, Biden said of Putin: "He has no idea what's coming."
The annual speech to Congress gives Biden, a Democrat, a chance to highlight his agenda, reassure Americans concerned about Covid-19 and the economy, and seek to boost his sagging poll numbers with a show of presidential pomp.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has dominated the White House's time in recent weeks, shaping the speech's focus with the president set on uniting Americans around a global effort to punish Moscow and support Kyiv.
"Throughout our history we've learned this lesson - 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," Biden saide.
Biden said that Putin eschewed efforts to prevent war.
"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."
Battling rising inflation exacerbated by the Russian crisis and assailed by Republicans who accused him of allowing it to get out of control, Biden called for companies to make more cars and semiconductors in the United States.
"We have a choice. One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer. I have a better plan to fight inflation," Biden said. "Instead of relying on foreign supply chains, let's make it in America... My plan to fight inflation will lower your costs and lower the deficit."
Biden and his fellow Democrats face the prospect of losing control of the US House of Representatives and Senate in 8 November midterm elections. An uptick in Biden's approval ratings might help prevent that and strengthen his chances of making good on his agenda.
Ukraine stance helps Biden's standing in polls
Public opinion polls have shown Biden out of favour with the majority of Americans for months.
Americans' approval of Biden's response to the Russian invasion rose over the past week, with 43 percent saying they approve in a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday, up from 34 percent last week. Some 47 percent disapproved of Biden response's to the crisis, however, and his overall popularity has held near the low point of his presidency in recent weeks.
Even with the jobless rate at 4 percent, most voters remain pessimistic about the economy, largely due to skyrocketing consumer prices. A quarter of Democrats think the party has failed to take advantage of its rare control of the White House and both houses of Congress.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who will deliver the Republican response to Biden's speech, will knock his handling of the Ukraine crisis and the US inflation spike.
"Instead of moving America forward, it feels like President Biden and his party have sent us back in time to the late 1970s and early 1980s. 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," she will say, according to excerpts.
Republicans say the country has not moved quickly enough to ease coronavirus pandemic restrictions as case counts fall. More than 2000 Americans are dying daily of Covid, the latest seven day average shows, the most of any country in the world.
On Tuesday, members of Congress attending Biden's speech at the US Capitol will not be required to wear masks for the first time in months, a sight that could provide helpful optics for the president.
Authorities reinstalled fencing around the Capitol ahead of planned trucker protests against pandemic-related restrictions, but it did not appear that the convoys would cause major disruptions.
The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, was due to attend the speech, sitting with the president's wife, Jill Biden. So will Pat Gelsinger, chief executive officer of Intel Corp, as the Biden administration seeks to showcase efforts to bolster chip supplies.