March 1, 2022
(MONTREAL) – As President Joe Biden prepares to give his first State of the Union (SOTU) address this evening, one expert believes his speech will do little to affect the current Ukraine-Russia crisis.
While some experts and pundits view Biden’s speech as an opportunity to rally opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s recent invasion into Ukraine, Julian Spencer-Churchill, an associate professor of political science at Concordia University, thinks it will have little impact on the crisis.“[The effect will be] minimal since [the address] is largely for domestic consumption,” he says.
In fact, Spencer-Churchill expects that the Ukraine-Russia crisis will impact Biden’s SOTU address far more than his speech will affect the crisis.
“[The crisis will affect the speech] significantly. Human rights issues and the U.S. being an alliance leader indicates that Biden has an interest,” Spencer-Churchill says.
“Although [this is] less so than a Republican president since Democrats usually put less emphasis on international politics.”
Spencer-Churchill’s take comes from years of working in the U.S. Pentagon and State Department and his active military service from 1988 to 2003. His main areas of study are pertinent to the current tension between Russia and Ukraine including war causation, nuclear weaponry, and naval and military strategy.
Some past State of the Union addresses impacted international affairs. A feature in The Guardian identified five examples including President James Monroe’s 1823 speech in which he laid out the foundation for what was later known as the Monroe Doctrine calling for an end to European colonization in the Americas. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his “Four Freedoms Speech” making the case for American involvement in World War II.Spencer-Churchill doesn’t discount the importance of the SOTU address citing George W. Bush’s speech on American interventionism, which destroyed a Middle East operation in 2002, as a prime example.
That said, with a plethora of subtopics about the Ukraine-Russia crisis to discuss, Spencer-Churchill counts on Biden speaking on “human rights and genocide claims against Russia, economic sanctions, reducing European dependence on gas, and arming the Ukrainians.”
While some Americans hope Biden will take a stronger stance against Russia, Spencer-Churchill recognizes the political delicacy of the situation.
“[Biden] should avoid over-emphasizing nuclear threats,” he says. “And he will likely be restrained on this.”
Similarly, Biden must keep steady on the all-too-familiar territory of American political extremes, he says. “[Biden] will be accused of being weak by Republicans who will range from isolationist libertarians to hawkish interventionists.”
Accordingly, Spencer-Churchill sees Biden as “a divisive President.”
Gallery: Scenes from Biden’s State of the Union. By Souhilla Moore and Theresa Boersma