In what was a gaffe-laden slate of addresses in Europe over the weekend, possibly President Joe Biden’s most appalling blunder was his remark that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be supplanted from office.
The statement represented a direct divergence from the Biden administration’s previous policy, a policy that had not called for regime change in Russia. Biden’s comments could be seen as an escalation of sorts as Putin may view Biden’s remarks as a direct threat to his office.
In a Saturday address in Warsaw, Poland, President Biden commented on the intense impasse in Ukraine, the United States’ efforts to support the war-torn country, and, curiously, the need to oust Vladimir Putin from his current role as Russian president. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” said President Biden.
The White House quickly sought to correct President Biden’s comments. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said yesterday on “Fox News Sunday” that the United States “does not have a policy of regime change towards Russia.”
Smith indicated that Biden’s remarks were predicated on the emotion of his experience in Warsaw. “He went to the national stadium in Warsaw and literally met with hundreds of Ukrainian refugees. He listened to their heroic stories about fleeing Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s brutal aggression there, and it was a moving day. We don’t want to see Putin continuing this war,” added Smith.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed similar sentiments, saying that Biden intended to convey the message that “Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else.”
Even President Biden sought to walk back his earlier remarks. “I was just expressing my outrage. He shouldn’t remain in power, just like – you know – bad people shouldn’t continue to do bad things.” Biden added that his statements don’t represent a shift in the United States’ “fundamental policy,” nor do they represent an attempt to “take Putin down in any way.”
Still, despite the White House’s attempts to clarify President Biden’s comments, Russia quickly took notice of Biden’s shift in stance. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “that’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Russian Duma – Vyacheslav Volodin – said of Biden: “This is how a weak and sick person behaves; psychiatrists will be able to explain his behavior better.” Volodin added that Americans should be “ashamed of their president.”
President Biden also faced admonishment from a number of political figures in the West – both domestic and abroad.
French President Emmanuel Macron told France 3 TV that he “wouldn’t use this type of wording because I continue to hold discussions with President Putin.” Macron further added that if the objective is to end war in Ukraine, “we should not escalate things, neither with words or actions.”
Meanwhile, several Republican senators lambasted Biden for his phrasing, saying the president must be more thoughtful in his speech. On “Meet the Press,” Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said that Biden’s remark on Vladimir Putin “plays right into the hands of the Russian propagandists.”
Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) had even harsher words for President Biden, calling Biden’s suggestion that Putin must be removed a “horrendous gaffe” while adding that he wishes that Biden would “stay on script.”