“I was expressing my anger — he shouldn’t stay in power, you know, bad guys shouldn’t keep doing bad things,” Biden said in response to a question from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins. But that doesn’t mean we have a basic policy of doing anything to bring Putin down in any way.
“I was talking to the Russian people,” Biden said when Collins asked him why he hit the line.
“The last part of the speech was talking to the Russian people,” he said. “I was passing this on, not only to the Russian people but to the whole world. This, this is just an illustration of the simple fact that this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. And the way to deal with it is to strengthen and keep NATO fully united and help Ukraine wherever possible that “.
Biden confirmed that he was speaking from the heart after meeting with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw.
“I just came from these families, and I don’t apologize for that,” he said.
The president also refused to suggest that his comments might lead to an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. Biden said the suggestion that other leaders might object to his unwritten remarks during his speech in Poland did not weaken NATO.
“NATO has never been so strong as it is today,” Biden said.
The impromptu comment about Putin, which came at the end of a two-state visit to Europe aimed at strengthening alliances, was unplanned and surprised aides who were watching Biden’s speech on television or at the scene. And the words weren’t something Biden suggested was likely included in his speech — previously, US officials had insisted that changing the government in Moscow was not one of their goals. In closed meetings earlier in the week, Biden told fellow NATO leaders he did not want to escalate the confrontation between the West and Russia.
However, his impressive streak has done more in confronting Putin head-on than anything else in the conflict so far.
– He’s a butcher
People who spoke to Biden before and after the speech described him as personally touched after his visit with refugees at the National Stadium in Warsaw, where women asked him to pray for the men — husbands, sons and brothers — who stayed behind to fight. .
Immediately before the speech, officials also briefed the president about a series of missile strikes on a fuel depot in Lviv, Ukraine, a western city not far from the Polish border. The timing seemed no coincidence as Biden was visiting Warsaw.
Although the Biden administration quickly retracted comments about Putin’s authority, it withheld the rest of Biden’s speech, which focused on reassuring NATO allies that the United States would defend them if Putin made an incursion into Europe. White House aides had been working on the speech for several days, including the hours leading up to the speech.
Vinay Reddy, Biden’s speechwriter, and Mike Donilon, his chief adviser who helps craft the president’s keynote speeches, both traveled to Europe with Biden and co-wrote the speech.
The clarification released by the White House on Saturday was at least the third time an administration official has felt obligated to remove statements by Biden that, on their own, seemed startling and incompatible with US foreign policy.
While praising the heroism of the Ukrainians, Biden told American forces, “You’ll see when you’re there” — though he vowed that American forces would not enter the conflict directly. After that, a spokesman said that nothing had changed: “The president has made it clear that we will not send US forces to Ukraine.”
After Biden said he would “respond in kind” to Russia’s use of chemical weapons in Ukraine, Sullivan assured reporters that the United States “has no intention of using chemical weapons under any circumstances.”
Biden has a well-established pattern of speaking out of control, although perhaps not so high stakes. White House officials said before Biden’s speech that the president had been working closely behind the scenes to promote cooperation among his counterparts.
“He sleeps a lot more on these kinds of trips than on other trips because he’s just going, going, like, he wants to talk to the next leader; you know, take the next briefing,” Sullivan said Friday in the middle of Biden’s trip. From Brussels to Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, where he would meet American soldiers.
Europe is still measuring its reaction to Biden’s comments
It remains to be seen exactly how the observation will affect the conflict. A European diplomat noted that Biden’s statement would not have a broader impact on the Kremlin’s handling of the war.
“(The Russians) will be concerned if we start bringing tanks to Ukraine. They will not care about this,” the diplomat said.
As the diplomat told CNN, “Biden said something a lot of people thought.”
“In the short term, it might be a little uncomfortable, but it might be a little more useful for the Russians to know. … In the end, Putin can’t stay in power, can he? He made the decision to invade another country and he violated all The types of legal agreements he signed.
A defense official from one of the Baltic states was pleased to hear Biden’s remarks, saying, “The West should not be afraid to be ambiguous. It would have given some in Russia hope that the system could change.”
The defense official added, “Russia is always ambiguous, always blurring the lines between war and peace. We should also practice that more.”
A European official whose office recently contacted Putin said they don’t think Biden’s comments will complicate matters, but it’s hard to say for certain. “At least (we) didn’t notice a difference,” the official said. “Maybe we need to see but so far we haven’t noticed anything different.”
“I will not use terms like that”
Officially, the Kremlin’s response came from spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said that the fate of the Russian ruler “will not be decided by Biden.”
Peskov then said on Monday that the comments “certainly raise concern,” adding, “We will continue to closely monitor the statements of the American president. We are watching them carefully and will continue to do so.”
“President Biden has heard us loud and clear, that the United States will help and will be with Ukraine in this fight,” Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” program on Sunday.
“We clearly understand in Ukraine that anyone who is a war criminal, who attacks a neighboring country, who does all these atrocities along with all the Russians involved, certainly cannot stay in power in a civilized world. Now, it is all up to each and every one of us to stop Putin,” she added. .
French President Emmanuel Macron – who said last week that France was “stepping up” work to prevent an escalation of the war in Ukraine but ruled out the direct involvement of the French military – suggested Biden’s comments were not helpful to diplomatic efforts.
“I will not use such terms because I am still in talks with President Putin,” Macron said during an interview on Sunday with France’s Channel 3 France.
“Our goal is to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine, while avoiding war and escalation,” the French president added.
On the home front, Democrats have largely repeated the White House clarification. But some Republicans criticized the president for his informal remarks.
“This administration has done everything in its power to de-escalate,” Rich said, adding, “There is not much more you can do to escalate than to call for regime change.”
Representative Michael McCaul, the Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, told State of the Union, “I know it was a long way off, but whatever the president says, it has a lot of weight…in this case it’s sending a provocative message to Mr. Putin.”
Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman also told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Biden’s comments “are in the interest of Russian preachers and benefit Vladimir Putin,” adding later, “We’re at war. So clarity is very important.” .
CNN’s Sarah Diab, Fred Blitgen, Sarah Fortinsky, and Ali Main contributed to this report.
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