Washington:27/3/22: US President Joe Biden said that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” dramatically escalating the rhetoric against the Russian leader after his brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Even as Biden’s words rocketed around the world, the White House attempted to clarify soon after Biden finished speaking in Poland that he was not calling for a new government in Russia.
A White House official asserted that Biden was “not discussing Putin’s power in Russia or regime change.” The official, who was not authorized to comment by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Biden’s point was that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”
The White House declined to comment on whether Biden’s statement about Putin was part of his prepared remarks.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said at the very end of a speech in Poland’s capital that served as the capstone on a four-day trip to Europe.
Biden has frequently talked about ensuring that the Kremlin’s invasion becomes a “strategic failure” for Putin and has described the Russian leader as a “war criminal.” But until his remarks in Warsaw, the American leader had not veered toward suggesting Putin should not run Russia. Earlier on Saturday, shortly after meeting with Ukrainian refugees, Biden called Putin a “butcher.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press that “it’s not up to the president of the U.S. and not up to the Americans to decide who will remain in power in Russia.”
“Only Russians, who vote for their president, can decide that,” Peskov added. “And of course it is unbecoming for the president of the U.S. to make such statements.”
Asked about the impact of such statements from Biden on Russia-U.S. relations, Peskov described it as “extremely negative.” “With each such statement, and Biden now prefers to make them daily, he is narrowing the window of opportunity for our bilateral relations under the current administration,” Peskov said.
This past week, Russians warned John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, that diplomatic relations were in jeopardy because Washington has imposed painful economic sanctions on Russia. On Thursday, the Russians declared almost a dozen diplomats at the U.S. Embassy as “persona non grata,” paving the way for their expulsion. Staffing at the embassy is already thin, and U.S. officials have said further reductions will make it difficult if not impossible to keep it operating.
“The White House walk back of @POTUS regime change call is unlikely to wash,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a Twitter posting. “Putin will see it as confirmation of what he’s believed all along. Bad lapse in discipline that runs risk of extending the scope and duration of the war.”
Biden also used his speech to also make a vociferous defense of liberal democracy and the NATO military alliance, while saying Europe must steel itself for a long fight against Russian aggression.