Soon, the White House and Biden himself tried to downplay the president’s comment, which he made at the end of his coronation speech in Warsaw. The administration and allies say Biden was not advocating regime change to remove Putin from power. Instead, they argue, Biden was saying that Putin could not be allowed to exercise his power over neighboring countries.
The comment, which came at the end of a two-state visit to Europe aimed at cementing 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.
Now, Biden and White House officials are expected to face questions about the comments.
The White House took the rare step of revealing that the president expects to answer questions when he delivers remarks on the budget proposal on Monday afternoon. Later on Monday, economic officials will brief the press in Washington.
– 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. .
When asked by reporters traveling with the president what seeing the refugees made him think as he dealt with Putin every day, Biden replied, “He’s a butcher.”
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.
“I will not use terms like that”
Despite the White House’s rapid decline, the comments continued to provoke reactions from world leaders.
Before the White House released its clarification, the Kremlin released its own response, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying 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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