“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said on Saturday, March 26th, his cadence slowing for emphasis.
New York Times WARSAW, Poland — They were among the final few words of a carefully crafted speech. But they strayed far from the delicate balance that President Joe Biden had tried to strike during three days of wartime diplomacy in Europe.
On its face, he appeared to be calling for President Vladimir Putin of Russia to be ousted for his brutal invasion of Ukraine. But Biden’s aides quickly insisted that the remark — delivered in front of a castle that served for centuries as a home for Polish monarchs — was not intended as an appeal for regime change.
Whatever his intent, the moment underscored the dual challenges Biden faced during three extraordinary summit meetings in Belgium and an up-close look at the war’s consequences from Poland: keeping U.S. allies united against Putin, while at the same time avoiding an escalation with Russia, which the president has said could lead to World War III.
To achieve his first goal, Biden spent much of the trip drawing the world’s attention to Putin’s atrocities since he started the war Feb. 24. He urged continued action to cripple the Russian economy. He reaffirmed America’s promise to defend its NATO allies against any threat. And he called Putin “a butcher,” responsible for devastating damage to Ukraine’s cities and its people.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, said Putin’s fate was not in the hands of the American president. “It’s not for Biden to decide,” Peskov told reporters after Biden finished speaking. “The president of Russia is elected by the Russians.”
Even as he made it his mission to rally his counterparts, Biden and his aides were determined to avoid taking actions that Putin could use as pretexts to start a wider, even more dangerous conflict.
“There is simply no justification or provocation for Russia’s choice of war,” Biden said earlier in his speech Saturday night. “It’s an example one of the oldest human impulses — using brute force and disinformation to satisfy a craving for absolute power and control.”