White House Scrambles to Backtrack Biden Call for Russian Regime Change

Things got interesting Saturday when President Joe Biden wandered from scripted remarks in a speech at Warsaw Castle. Biden, before a group of about 1,000 that included Ukrainian refugees, forcefully declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” due to the invasion of Ukraine.

The day started with Russian strikes on a fuel depot in Lviv, merely 250 miles from where the president braved the bitter cold to visit Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

Later, after being briefed on the missile strike, the president unleashed a surprise before about 1,000 people in the courtyard of a Polish castle. Biden swerved from the text of his speech when he said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

The Royal Castle address was the finale of Biden’s three-day trip, and the apparent call for regime change in Moscow followed other recent descriptions of the Russian president as a “murderous dictator” and a “war criminal.” Needless to say, White House officials were caught off-guard by the seemingly impromptu remark.

U.S. officials previously asserted that removing Putin was not part of the administration’s agenda and that “the Russian people have to decide who leads them.”

Despite the clear meaning of Biden’s statement, the administration scrambled to spin a quite different meaning onto the words. According to the revision, the point made to close the speech was that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”

The Kremlin responded quickly to the president’s declaration. “This is not to be decided by Mr. Biden,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared. “It should only be a choice of the people of the Russian Federation.”

Several political observers expressed concern Saturday that the off-the-cuff remarks will be seen by Putin as Biden’s true beliefs and not a scripted statement. Richard Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations, said the declaration “discourages Putin from any compromise essentially” by positioning him with nothing to lose.

While some may believe it’s refreshing to see what was apparently a heart-felt reaction to Putin’s butchery, it is inconceivable that the U.S. president unexpectedly called for regime change for an aggressive nuclear power. To back the Kremlin into a corner removes any cause for restraint in Ukraine and gives every reason for the invaders to double down on their brutality.