Biden appeared to make a historic call for Putin’s removal. The White House quickly clarified.

‘The world heard it. No way to unring that bell’

<p>Joe Biden addressed the Russian people and called for regime change </p>

Joe Biden addressed the Russian people and called for regime change

Leer en Español

For a few minutes, the world changed.

In a speech in Poland on Saturday, United States president Joe Biden appeared to call for the removal of Russian leader Vladimir Putin by any means, saying: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

The president’s full-throated verbal assault on Putin seemed to represent a remarkable shift in US policy: regime change in Russia.

But almost as soon as breaking news headlines and push alerts took the momentous soundbite around the world, the White House began walking back his remarks.

“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” a White House official told The Independent.

“He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

However, the attempted clean-up operation failed to reassure many observers.

“Too late. We all heard Biden say: ‘For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power’,” Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin tweeted.

“The world heard it. No way to unring that bell.”

Author and international affairs expert Tom Nichols said he thought the remark went too far.

Regardless of the intent, it showed the US was no longer interested in “meaningful relations with Russia” while Putin remained in power.

“No POTUS can really meet with Putin again. Goal should be the Cold War goal: Peaceful coexistence and avoiding disaster.”

CNN’s John Harwood called it a “significant lapse in discipline” from Mr Biden.

The Washington Post’s Tyler Pager reported Mr Biden’s remarks were not scripted, and had taken his aides by surprise.

Mr Biden’s comments drew a swift response from Russia, as it sent an artillery strike to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv moments after he had finished speaking.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also responded to the speech, saying: “This is not to be decided by Mr Biden. It should only be a choice of the people of the Russian Federation.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Biden had called Putin a “butcher” for the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets in Ukraine as he met with refugees near the border with Poland.

He also called Putin a “war criminal” in response to a question from a reporter last week. The White House also walked back those remarks, while the State Department has since declared the Russian president guilty of war crimes.

While some feared the speech raised the prospect of a direct confrontation with Russia, others praised the speech as Mr Biden’s strongest statement since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

“Just what Ukraine and the world needed at this point in history,” former White House official Mike Walker wrote on Twitter.

The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum called it a “very good speech, not just for Poland but for all of us”.

And former Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the president was referring to “the long term stakes in the fight between democracy and autocracy”.

“Might Putin say otherwise? Of course. But he’s long asserted the US wants regime change in Russia.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in