Biden’s ad-libbed State of the Union moment on Putin: ‘He has no idea what’s coming’

Remarks could preview more US action to isolate Russia

John Bowden
Wednesday 02 March 2022 07:18 GMT
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Key moments: State of the Union 2022

President Joe Biden’s first ad-libbed moment of the night during his State of the Union address on Tuesday came during a stern message directed at Russia’s Vladimir Putin announcing the closure of US airspace to flights from Russian airlines.

The president told a cheering crowd of lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress that Mr Putin “has no idea what’s coming”, potentially referring to yet more action to be taken by the Biden administration aimed at isolating Russia and its economy on the world stage.

“Tonight, I’m announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy,” said the president.

He added: “Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: no more. The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We are joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets.”

“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” vowed Mr Biden.

The message the president delivered regarding Russia and its invasion of Ukraine was easily the source of the most bipartisan agreement on Tuesday evening, as lawmakers from both parties attended the president’s speech bearing the yellow-and-blue flags of Ukraine and stood for an ovation recognising the Ukrainian ambassador to the US, a special guest at the address.

In his remarks condemning Mr Putin’s actions and vowing more support for Ukraine, Mr Biden also reiterated his vow that US troops would not be used to defend Ukrainian sovereignty, a prospect that would drag the US into direct conflict with Russia and is opposed (according to most polling) by a wide majority of Americans in both parties.

The president has faced criticism from the Trump-aligned wing of the GOP on the issue of Ukraine and accusations that his administration projects a supposed weakness on the world stage that the former president and other conservatives argue led to Russia’s invasion.

Sen Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said as much on Fox News last week, contending: “If Donald Trump were president, none of this crap would be going on because you got to be strong. When you’re weak is when everything falls apart. And Biden is weak, and Trump was strong.”

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