UC Berkeley professor weighs in on Biden's speech on Russia/Ukraine conflict

As the world watched, President Biden opened his first State of the Union speech Tuesday with a vigorous condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and new U.S. actions to support Ukraine.

"Let each of us stand if you are able to stand, and send an unmistakable message to the world," President Biden said turning to the Ukranian ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova, who was invited as a guest. In a show of unusual bipartisan unity, members of Congress wore the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag and applauded in a standing ovation.

"I'm announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights," said President Biden.

President Biden also said the Department of Justice will launch a new task force to go after Russian elites' assets as part of the unprecedented attack Russia's financial war chests.

"We're joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts and luxury apartments, their private jets," said President Biden.

The President said the U.S. would be sending troops to protect NATO territory, but would not enter Ukraine, instead providing other forms of support.

"Military assistance, economic assistance, humanitarian assistance...we're giving more than a billion dollars of direct assistance to Ukraine," said President Biden.

"Let me be clear. Our forces are not engaged and will not engage in a conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine," Biden continued, "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. For that purpose, we have mobilized American ground forces air squadrons, ship deployments to protect NATO countries including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania Estonia. And as I've made crystal clear, the United States and our allies will defend every inch of territory that is NATO territory."

UC Berkeley associate professor of history and international policy Daniel Sargent specializes in foreign policy going back to the Cold War with Russia. He says Putin is becoming isolated and facing more opposition from Ukrainians and the NATO countries than he perhaps expected.

"As he (Putin) becomes more and more desperate, what he's doing is escalating the intensity of the ground war. We've seen Putin over the past 48 hours deploy weapons like cluster bombs, which he had previously resisted deploying. So I think that's confirmation that the war is not going so well for Putin as he hoped that it might. But what's troubling is that we don't know the lengths to which Vladimir Putin might be willing to go," said Sargent.

Russia continued advancing Tuesday, warning civilians to leave before airstrikes on Kyiv.

Video shows Russian strikes destroying a TV tower in Kyiv. A holocaust memorial site and maternity clinic were also hit.

Satellite images show a Russian military convoy more than 40 miles long reaching Ukraine's capitol.

And late Tuesday, Ukraine said Russian airstrikes hit ten buildings in a residential part of the city Zhytomyr.

The second-largest city of Kharkiv east of Kyiv also was hit with rockets, killing several people, and destroying a government building.

Ukrainian civilians have constructed barricades along some roads to slow the advance of Russian troops.

Senior Pentagon officials say Russian forces are running out of supplies such as food and fuel as the battle drags on.

Sargent says at the State of the Union speech, the President seemed to have rare bipartisan support in his call for unity against the Russian invasion.

"Congress is going to be debating very, very soon a new military package for Ukraine and I think it's likely if you look at the response to the chamber tonight that the bill is going to pass with strong Republican and Democratic support," said Sargent.

President Biden warned Americans that there could be an impact on gas prices, saying he was releasing 30 million barrels of oil from U.S. reserves to offset any supply problems from the Ukraine war.

"The longer this drags on, the more NATO countries are going to be drawn in, not necessarily into a formal interstate conflict, but through the provision of weapons and perhaps through the engagement of citizens of NATO member states," said Sargent.

That engagement is already extending to a growing number of foreigners who are volunteering to fight in Ukraine. Ukraine has lifted visa requirements for people who want to join Ukrainian forces against Russia.

Sargent says the U.S. action leading up to the State of the Union address shows how quickly the U.S. can deploy its international power.

"We have talked a great deal in recent years about the problem of American decline. Academics, policy pundits, myself included, have, I think, been quick to discern symptoms of U.S. relative decline, whether in our rancorous domestic politics or...our dwindling influence in global affairs. I think what we've seen over the past week, really since last Friday, is that the United States remains exceptionally capable of mobilizing a vigorous and highly effective international response to a major international crisis when it acts in conjunction with its allies and partners in the democratic world. And, frankly, the rapidity and strength of the financial sanctions, in particular, the financial sanctions that have been imposed on Russia is really stunning. Russia is paying a heavy, heavy price for its choice to invade Ukraine. And that's a testament to the enduring power that the United States commands in the global economic order," said Sargent.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.