GOP pols on Sunday claimed President Biden’s remark that Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power” played straight into the hands of the Russian dictator — while some European leaders sought to distance themselves from the commander-in-chief’s “blunder.” distance.
Meanwhile, officials in the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, spent Sunday insisting that the US goal in Ukraine is not “regime change.”
Biden’s nine words, unlocked at will during a speech Saturday in Warsaw, Poland, stole the limelight of the president’s three-day trip to Europe to strengthen NATO allies against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and sent the white House to clean up his comments.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said at the end of his 27-minute speech at Warsaw’s Royal Castle.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that Biden’s comment will soon become part of the Russians’ disinformation campaign about the invasion of Ukraine.
“First, I think we all believe the world would be a better place without Vladimir Putin. But second, that’s not official US policy. And by saying that this regime change is our strategy, after all, it plays into the hands of the Russian propagandists and plays into the hands of Vladimir Putin,” Portman said on NBC News’ Meet the Press.
“So it was a mistake. And the President recognized that, and the White House took it back,” he said.
“But you see, we are in a crisis. We are in a war situation. So clarity is incredibly important. And we need to be sure we speak up with our NATO allies too, because that’s how we are stronger,” the Ohio lawmaker said.
Senator Jim Risch, Portman’s Republican colleague on the Foreign Relations Committee had three words for Biden’s Nine: “Stick to the script.
“He made a good speech at the end, but as you pointed out, there was a terrible slip right at the end,” Indiana native Risch told Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union.
“I wish he would stick with the script. Whoever wrote this speech did a good job for him. But my god, I wish they would keep him in the script,” Risch said of the slip-up-prone president.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has spoken repeatedly with Putin and Biden during the more than month-long war in Ukraine, urged the US president on Sunday not to escalate the situation.
“I wouldn’t use those kinds of words,” Macron said when asked about Biden’s comments.
He added that he still hopes to resolve the situation diplomatically.
“If we want that, we must not escalate with words or deeds,” he said.
The UK raised similar concerns.
“I think that’s up to the Russian people,” said British Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi in response to Biden’s alleged slip. “The Russian people will decide the beliefs of Putin and his cronies.”
Blinken was among government officials who on Sunday slammed the commander-in-chief’s remarks about Putin.
“I think the President, the White House, indicated last night that President Putin simply cannot be authorized to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone,” Blinken said during a visit to Jerusalem , where he met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
“As you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we have no strategy for regime change in Russia – or anywhere else,” the top US diplomat said.
“As in every case, it is up to the people of the respective country. It’s up to the Russians,” said Blinken.
US Ambassador to NATO Julianna Smith indicated that Biden was experiencing a “basic human reaction” after spending much of the day meeting Ukrainian refugees in Poland and hearing them evacuate their homes because of the Russian invasion had to flee houses.
“The President had spent the day visiting Ukrainian refugees. He went to the National Stadium in Warsaw and met literally hundreds of Ukrainians. He heard their heroic stories as they fled Ukraine after Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine,” Smith said on CNN.
Biden had earlier on Saturday called Putin a “butcher” and in recent days has labeled the Russian leader a “war criminal.”
“Right now, I think that was a principled human reaction to the stories he heard that day,” Smith said of Biden’s “can’t stay in power” comment.
But she reiterated Blinken’s opinion that the US has no strategy to oust Putin.
“As you’ve heard from Minister Blinken and others, the US has no regime change policy in Russia, period,” Smith told Bash.
Risch said the president’s ad-libbed commentary during a war that could easily engulf Europe if it escalates could have potentially dire repercussions.
“You’ve seen the stories that have been coming out around the world because that was an announcement of a change in policy. Regime change is something existential. I mean, you just don’t do that. And it has been suggested that we change policy and seek regime change,” he said on CNN.
Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) agreed with Portman that Biden gave Russians an opportunity to use his words to their advantage.
“My problem with the President implying or implying that it is the United States or the West that wants to bring about regime change is twofold: First, it feeds Putin’s propaganda machine. He has long said that the United States and NATO aim to take out the Russian government and keep Russia weak,” he told Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures.
“I guarantee you, he’s pumping this propaganda into his people right now, saying, ‘Look, I told you so. That’s why you need to rally around me,'” the congressman said.
“And then #2, for deterrence to work, the supreme commander has to be credible. That kind of flip-flops, he says, and then the White House has to clean them up, hurts his credibility,” he said.
“The Commander-in-Chief must be taken seriously. I don’t think he’s being taken seriously right now,” Waltz said.
With postal wires
https://nypost.com/2022/03/27/gop-pols-biden-comments-about-putin-feed-russian-propaganda/ Biden’s comments about Putin fuel Russian propaganda