Those who wish the United States ill should know "it's never ever a good bet to bet against America," President Joe Biden said during his State of the Union speech at the Capitol tonight.
The president highlighted U.S. economic progress, but also touched on the challenges posed by Russia's war on Ukraine and China's attempts to bend the world to its will.
Biden noted that when he gave his first State of the Union speech last year, it was just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into the sovereign nation of Ukraine. Then, it was unknown what would happen as Russia tried to erase the neighboring country.
The "brutal war" against Ukraine began with a murderous assault, "evoking images of the death and destruction Europe suffered in World War II," the president said.
He said the invasion has been "a test for the ages. A test for America. A test for the world."
Biden said that test was whether the nations of the world would stand by basic principles. "Would we stand for sovereignty? Would we stand for the right of people to live free from tyranny? Would we stand for the defense of democracy?" he asked.
This matters because "it keeps the peace and prevents open season for would-be aggressors to threaten our security and prosperity," Biden said. "One year later, we know the answer. Yes, we would. And, yes, we did."
America led, the president said. "We united NATO and built a global coalition," he said. "We stood against Putin's aggression. We stood with the Ukrainian people."
The United States has sent billions of dollars in equipment and is training Ukrainian service members to defend their country.
During his address, the president acknowledged Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova, who was seated with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Markarova also observed last year's State of the Union address. "She represents not just her nation, but the courage of her people," the president said. "Ambassador, America is united in our support for your country. We will stand with you as long as it takes."
Europe is not the only place where the international rules-based order is challenged. "Our nation is working for more freedom, more dignity, and more peace — not just in Europe, but everywhere," Biden said. "Before I came to office, the story was about how the People's Republic of China was increasing its power, and America was falling in the world. Not anymore."
Biden said that he has stressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping that the United States seeks competition with China, not conflict. "I will make no apologies that we are investing to make America strong," he said. "Investing in American innovation, in industries that will define the future, and that China's government is intent on dominating."
That also means investing in alliances and working with allies and partners to protect advanced technologies.
The president spoke of modernizing the U.S. military to safeguard stability and deter aggression.
"Today, we're in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world," he said. "I am committed to work[ing] with China where it can advance American interests and benefit the world. But make no mistake: As we made clear last week, if China's threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did."
Biden said that unity is needed to ensure democracies can meet the serious challenges that confront all nations. "In the past two years, democracies have become stronger, not weaker. Autocracies have grown weaker, not stronger," he said. "America is rallying the world again to meet those challenges — from climate and global health to food insecurity to terrorism and territorial aggression. Allies are stepping up, spending more and doing more. And bridges are forming between partners in the Pacific and those in the Atlantic. And those who bet against America are learning just how wrong they are."
The president also called for internal unity, asking for bipartisan cooperation to "do more to keep our nation's one truly sacred obligation: to equip those we send into harm's way and care for them and their families when they come home."
Congress and the administration can unite to provide job training and job placement for veterans and their spouses as they return to civilian life. He also called for programs that help veterans afford their rent "because no one should be homeless in this country, especially not those who served the country," he said.
He also asked for funding for programs to combat the scourge of veteran suicides. He called for money to fund expanding mental health screenings and a proven program that recruits veterans to help other veterans get the help they need.