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“Dictators” would “pay a price” for “invading” a foreign country: Biden

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Washington:  Accusing his Russian counterpart of waging a “premeditated and unprovoked” war against Ukraine, President Joe Biden in his first State of the Union address asserted that “dictators” like Vladimir Putin would “pay a price” for “invading” a foreign country.

Set upon a backdrop of a conflict in Ukraine that grows deadlier each day, Biden called for a united resistance to Russia’s aggression and sought to reassure pandemic-weary Americans who are also feeling the pinch of rising inflation.

Biden said Ukraine is on the front line of the global battle between democracies and autocracies, and that democracy will prevail.

“A Russian dictator, invading a foreign country, has costs around the world,” Biden said in a prime-time speech, nearly a week after President Putin ordered a special military operation against Ukraine.

“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,” the 79-year-old Democrat, the oldest serving US President, said addressing the joint session of the US Congress.

“That’s why the NATO alliance was created to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II. The United States is a member along with 29 other nations. It matters. American diplomacy matters,” he said, launching a blistering attack on the 69-year-old Russian president.

“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 said in his 62-minute address.

Biden said that Putin badly miscalculated the attack on Ukraine. “Putin 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,” Biden said.

“In this struggle as President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy said in his speech to the European Parliament ‘Light will win over darkness.’ The Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States is here tonight. Let each of us here tonight in this Chamber send an unmistakable signal to Ukraine and to the world,” he said amidst applause from a packed house of lawmakers.

In his address, Biden touted his success in uniting much of the world against President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The free world is holding him accountable,” Biden said.

“Along with 27 members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy, as well as countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and many others, even Switzerland are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been,” he said.

Biden said the US and its allies prepared extensively and carefully. “We spent months building a coalition of other freedom-loving nations from Europe and the Americas to Asia and Africa to confront Putin,” he said.

“We countered Russia’s lies with truth. And now that he has acted the free world is holding him accountable,” he said amidst another round of applause.

At the same time, Biden asserted that the US forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine.

“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,” he said.

Biden said he has made it crystal clear the United States and its allies will defend every inch of territory of NATO countries with the full force of “our collective power”.

“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. Preventing Russia’s central bank from defending the Russian Ruble making Putin’s USD 630 billion “war fund” worthless,” he said.

He said the US and its allies were choking off Russia’s access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come. “Tonight I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime no more,” he said.

“And I’m taking robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at Russia’s economy. And I will use every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and consumers,” he said.

“In the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment, and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security,” he said.

Biden said that the US Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs. “We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts your luxury apartments your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he said.

“And tonight I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights – further isolating Russia – and adding an additional squeeze – on their economy. The Ruble has lost 30% of its value,” he said.

He said the Russian stock market has lost 40% of its value and trading remains suspended. Russia’s economy is reeling and Putin alone is to blame, he added.

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