Congress Executive Branch

National Security and Foreign Policy Highlights from the State of the Union

Brad Carney
Friday, March 8, 2024, 9:47 AM

President Biden called for a commitment to freedom and democracy at home and overseas.

President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address, Thursday, March 7, 2024, on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (POTUS Twitter,; Public Domain)

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President Biden's State of the Union address painted a stark picture of freedom and democracy under assault both at home and abroad. Biden issued a forceful call to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, strengthen support for Kyiv, and bolster NATO allies to check Putin's territorial ambitions. Domestically, he declared that the Jan. 6 insurrection and lies about the 2020 election posed "the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War," demanding an end to political violence and voter suppression efforts.

Although the address focused heavily on domestic policy, President Biden discussed substantive national security and foreign policy issues. Below are the key excerpts from the speech most relevant to those issues, organized by subject:

On Threats to Freedom and Democracy at Home and Abroad

"Not since President Lincoln and the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault here at home as they are today. What makes our moment rare is that freedom and democracy are under attack, both at home and overseas, at the very same time."

"Insurrectionists stormed this very Capitol and placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy….January 6th and the lies about the 2020 election, and the plots to steal the election, posed the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War."

On Supporting Ukraine against Russian Aggression and Strengthening NATO

"If anybody in this room thinks Putin will stop at Ukraine, I assure you, he will not. But Ukraine can stop Putin if we stand with Ukraine and provide the weapons it needs to defend itself.…[n]ow assistance for Ukraine is being blocked by those who want us to walk away from our leadership in the world….My message to President Putin is simple. We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down."  

"Today, we've made NATO stronger than ever. We welcomed Finland to the Alliance last year, and just this morning, Sweden officially joined NATO, and their Prime Minister is here tonight….I say this to Congress: we must stand up to Putin. Send me the Bipartisan National Security Bill."

On Threats from China

"For years, all I've heard from my Republican friends and so many others is China's on the rise and America is falling behind. They've got it backward. America is rising….And our trade deficit with China is down to the lowest point in over a decade….We want competition with China, but not conflict. And we're in a stronger position to win the competition for the 21st Century against China or anyone else for that matter."  

"I've revitalized our partnerships and alliances in the Pacific. I've made sure that the most advanced American technologies can't be used in China's weapons."

On American Manufacturing

"Thanks to my Chips and Science Act the United States is investing more in research and development than ever before….instead of having to import semiconductor chips, which America invented I might add, private companies are now investing billions of dollars to build new chip factories here in America!"

On the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

"This crisis began on October 7th with a massacre by the terrorist group Hamas. 1,200 innocent people women and girls men and boys slaughtered, many enduring sexual violence. The deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust."

"Israel has a right to go after Hamas. Hamas could end this conflict today by releasing the hostages, laying down arms, and surrendering those responsible for October 7th. Israel has an added burden because Hamas hides and operates among the civilian population. But Israel also has a fundamental responsibility to protect innocent civilians in Gaza….More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed. Most of whom are not Hamas.”

“Tonight, I’m directing the U.S. military to lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the Gaza coast that can receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelters. No U.S. boots will be on the ground. This temporary pier would enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day.”

"To the leadership of Israel I say this. Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip. Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be a priority."

“As we look to the future, the only real solution is a two-state solution.”

On Threats from Iran

“Creating stability in the Middle East also means containing the threat posed by Iran. That’s why I built a coalition of more than a dozen countries to defend international shipping and freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. I’ve ordered strikes to degrade Houthi capabilities and defend U.S. Forces in the region. As Commander in Chief, I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and military personnel.”

On Border Security

“In November, my team began serious negotiations with a bipartisan group of Senators. The result was a bipartisan bill with the toughest set of border security reforms we’ve ever seen in this country. That bipartisan deal would hire 1,500 more border security agents and officers. 100 more immigration judges to help tackle a backload of 2 million cases. 4,300 more asylum officers and new policies so they can resolve cases in 6 months instead of 6 years. 100 more high-tech drug detection machines to significantly increase the ability to screen and stop vehicles from smuggling fentanyl into America. This bill would save lives and bring order to the border. It would also give me as President new emergency authority to temporarily shut down the border when the number of migrants at the border is overwhelming.”

On Energy and Climate

“[M]y policies have attracted $650 Billion of private sector investments in clean energy and advanced manufacturing creating tens of thousands of jobs here in America!”

“Creating tens of thousands of clean-energy jobs, like the IBEW workers building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations…And patterned after the Peace Corps and Ameri Corps, I’ve launched a Climate Corps to put 20,000 young people to work at the forefront of our clean energy future.”

Brad Carney is a J.D. student at Harvard Law School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Dartmouth College and served as a Ranger in the U.S. Army.

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