Biden’s remarks on Putin’s power raise questions about Russia’s long-term strategy

US President Joe Biden announces the budget proposal for fiscal year 2023 at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Joe Biden responds to a question on Ukraine during an event announcing his proposed fiscal year 2023 budget in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. March 28, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

March 29, 2022

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jarrett Renshaw

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden, his aides and Western allies are struggling to explain his remark that Russian leader Vladimir Putin cannot stay in power because they do not want to escalate the conflict between Washington and Moscow, they said Officer.

The nine-word line at the end of a 27-minute speech in Warsaw on Saturday detracted from what some observers consider to be the best bit of rhetoric from the Biden presidency. It unnerved foreign allies at the end of an otherwise successful trip aimed at uniting allies against Russia, and has raised new questions about the United States’ long-term strategy for its former Cold War enemy.

“For God’s sake, this man can’t stay in power,” Biden said in the Polish capital after lengthy condemnation of Putin’s months-long war in Ukraine.

A White House official told Reuters the comment on Putin was not included in the speech. When asked if the sentiment reflected Biden’s true feelings, the official didn’t respond directly, but noted that the US president hasn’t shied away from calling his Russian counterpart a “butcher” and a “war criminal.”

In his political career, Biden has committed some notable verbal missteps during free-running meetings with reporters or other impromptu events. On his recent trip to Europe, Biden said the United States would respond “in kind” if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine, and suggested US troops would go to the front lines, neither of which was US policy represented.

But Saturday’s remark was not one of those situations – he was speaking to an audience from a teleprompter. In the minutes before he called for Putin’s resignation from power, the crowd of around 1,000 clearly fed on Biden’s remarks, clapping, waving flags and even starting a chant.

Biden’s emotional statement expressed the frustration many Western countries — and many U.S. voters — feel at the invasion of Ukraine, an ally of the Democratic president said.

It came, officials said, after a day in which Biden met with Ukrainian refugees uprooted by the war and government officials in Ukraine trying to respond to Russian bombing that was ravaging cities and, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office Nations have killed at least 1,119 civilians.

Nonetheless, the remark reflects long-standing allegations by Russia and other nations that the United States seeks an imperialist role in global conflicts, and escalates tensions as the West seeks to manage an increasingly unpredictable Putin.

The cleanup was quick and widespread, reflecting a strong desire within the administration to avoid an escalation with Russia, even if it hurt Biden’s reputation.

The US Secretary of State, the White House Press Office, the US Ambassador to NATO and the German Chancellor all shot down the idea of ​​regime change in a day, topped by Biden himself who bluntly said “no” when asked by reporters in Washington was asked if he was calling for regime change.

On Monday, Biden told reporters at the White House that his remark reflected his own “moral outrage” at Putin’s actions, rather than any change in policy. However, he added, if the Russian leader “continues the course he is on, he will become an outcast worldwide and who knows what he will become in terms of support at home”.

Officials in the Biden administration have said in recent weeks that they are increasingly concerned about Putin’s decision-making and his country’s more casual invocation of the threat of nuclear weapons, an attitude that made Biden’s statement even more startling.


In recent weeks, the Biden administration has distanced itself from suggestions by US Senator Lindsey Graham, among others, that the solution to the crisis in Ukraine lies in Putin’s violent ouster.

But it has described actions against Russian companies, banks, government officials and oligarchs as aimed squarely at Putin, an attempt to alienate him from supporters at home and abroad.

Putin is now “more isolated from the world than ever before,” Biden said during his March 1 State of the Union address to Congress; a week later he announced plans to further “squeeze” Putin.

Despite working directly with Putin, Biden failed to persuade him not to invade Ukraine at all. Since the invasion began on February 24, Biden has instead attempted to speak directly to the Russians. “You, the Russian people, are not our enemy,” said the US President in Warsaw.

Biden officials have not answered questions about what “endgame” scenarios the White House envisages in connection with the invasion of Ukraine or how they think Putin might de-escalate the conflict.

Last week, one of Putin’s closest allies, Dmitry Medvedev, warned the United States that the Russian president’s resignation from power could create an unstable leadership in Moscow, “with a maximum number of nuclear weapons aimed at targets in the United States and Europe.” are directed”.

When asked about Biden’s comment in Warsaw, which received little coverage on Russian state television, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “This is a statement that is certainly alarming.”

Andrew Lohsen, an expert on the conflict and collaborator at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, warned: “This will become a staple of Russian disinformation campaigns to smear US motivations.”

(This story corrects typo in paragraph 6)

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Jarrett Renshaw in Warsaw; Editing by Heather Timmons and Paul Simao) Biden’s remarks on Putin’s power raise questions about Russia’s long-term strategy

Bobby Allyn

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