President Biden delivered a forceful denunciation of Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Saturday, declaring “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power” and casting the military clash in Europe as the “test of all time” in a decades-long battle to defend democracy.
In a speech from a castle that served for centuries as a home for Polish monarchs, Mr. Biden described the face-off with Mr. Putin as a moment he has long warned about: a clash of competing global ideologies, of liberty versus oppression.
“Russia’s choice of war is an example one of the oldest human impulses — using brute force and disinformation to satisfy a craving for absolute power and control,” he declared before a crowd of hundreds of people in the courtyard of the Royal Castle and several thousand more outside its stone walls, watching on a large screen.
“We need to be clear: this battle will not be won in days or months either,” the president said. “We need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead.”
Administration officials have been careful not to hint at Mr. Putin’s removal from office, knowing that it would be taken by the Kremlin as a dangerous escalation. Shortly after Mr. Biden’s speech concluded, the White House insisted that the president was not calling for regime change with his comment about Mr. Putin remaining in power, which appeared to be ad-libbed.
“The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” a White House official said in a statement to reporters. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
But some experts said Mr. Biden may come to regret the comment.
“The White House walk back of @POTUS regime change call is unlikely to wash,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet. “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.”
The Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov told Reuters: “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.” [Continue reading…]