Biden condemns Putin, says he ‘can’t stay in power’

WARSAW – President Biden delivered a strong denunciation of Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Saturday, claiming “for God’s sake, this man cannot continue to be in power” and considers the clash Europe’s military was the “test of all times” for a decade. – The long battle to defend democracy.

In a speech from the castle that had been the residence of Polish monarchs for centuries, Mr. Biden described the confrontation with Mr. Putin as the moment he had long warned of: a clash of systems. competitive, liberal and oppressive global ideology.

He addressed a crowd of hundreds in the courtyards 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,” the president said. “We need to train ourselves for the long battle ahead.”

Administration officials have been careful not to hint at Putin’s removal from office, knowing it would be seen by the Kremlin as a dangerous escalation. Shortly after the end of Mr. Biden’s speech, the White House confirmed that the president was not calling for regime change with his comment about Mr. Putin remaining in power, which appeared to have been posted.

“The president’s position is that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or regions,” a White House official said in a statement to reporters. “He didn’t discuss Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

However, some experts say Mr Biden will probably regret the comment.

“The White House Walks Back” @POTUS Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet. “Putin will take it as confirmation of what he has believed so far. Ineffective discipline risks prolonging the scope and duration of war”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov told Reuters: “It’s not Biden’s right to decide. The President of Russia is elected by the Russians”.

Mr. Biden has expressed fury against Mr. Putin for being “brave” when he said his invasion was aimed at “de-fascistizing” Ukraine. Mr. Biden called that claim “a lie,” noting that President Volodymyr Zelensky was Jewish and that his father’s family was killed during the Holocaust.

“It is just skepticism. Photo knows it. And it’s also obscene,” Biden said.

Hours earlier, Mr. Biden had reacted emotionally after a brief interaction with refugees from Ukraine to Warsaw. After holding a petite Ukrainian girl in his arms for a selfie, the president answered a reporter’s question by calling the Russian leader “a butcher” for the crushing shelling of Mariupol, the eastern Ukrainian city that was largely destroyed by the Russians.

Administration officials considered Mr Biden’s speech a “major speech” at the end of three days of presidential diplomacy in Europe, and the president appeared eager to speak more candidly than usual. usually in diplomatic locations.

In his narration, Mr. Putin “was fond of violence from the very beginning”, then added, “It was Vladimir Putin who was to blame. Stage = Stage.” More broadly, he accused Putin of reviving the Cold War that pitted the United States against the Soviet Union for decades in a dangerous confrontation between nuclear-armed powers.

“The forces of autocracy have revived globally,” Biden said. Its telltale signs are the familiar ones: contempt for the rule of law, contempt for freedom and democracy, contempt for the truth itself.

Mr. Biden’s statement that Mr. Putin could no longer stay in power could be seen as “a call for regime change,” said Michal Baranowski, a senior fellow and director of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund. a nonpartisan policy organization, said. However, he said the comment itself was not likely to lead to any escalation.

“Russia is reacting more according to military logic than political logic,” Baranowski said, noting that powerful explosions near Lviv were heard minutes before Biden began speaking.

In his speech, Mr. Biden drew a familiar line in the sand, saying US troops would not enter Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, and issued a stark warning to him. Putin.

“Don’t even think about moving an inch of NATO territory,” Biden said, raising his voice in one of the more amusing moments of his speech.

He described the war in Ukraine as nothing more than an extension of the Soviet Union’s long history of oppression by countries such as Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Those countries eventually won freedom, he said, but said “the fight for democracy doesn’t end with the end of the Cold War.”

Today, Russia has stifled democracy and seeks to do so in other places, he said.

Mr. Biden echoed what has become the loud voice of his foreign policy, seeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as part of a “battle between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and oppression” across the country. Global.

The United States and its allies have united behind the economic sanctions that have crippled the Russian economy.

Mr. Biden has come under fire in recent days for claiming that sanctions were never intended to stop the invasion – although his top aides said the opposite last month – but rather to prevent the invasion. hurt the Russian economy and hinder Putin’s ability to wage war in the long term.

Mr. Biden raised his voice several times during his speech, but he quickly switched to his familiar low, empathetic tone as he described the plight of the millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine.

After meeting with the refugees, Mr. Biden said, “I don’t have to speak the language or understand the language to feel the emotion in their eyes,” and he referred to his own personal tragedies. me.

“There is no doubt that this war has been a strategic defeat for Russia,” Biden said. “Having lost a child myself, I know it’s no consolation for those who have lost their families.”

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