(RepublicanWire.org) – President Joe Biden struck a defiant tone on Monday while facing questions from White House reporters about his apparent call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to lose power.
“I’m not walking anything back,” Biden said. “The fact of the matter is, I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing, and the actions of this man, which is just brutality.”
But Biden clarified that his comments did not represent a shift in US policy.
“But I want to make it clear: I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change,” he said. “I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it.”
Biden also rejected claims that his comments were escalatory, or that he had weakened or divided NATO by making them.
“No, I’m not. I’m not at all,” he said. “NATO has never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been as strong as it is today. Never.”
Asked why he made the remarks at all, Biden said he was talking to the Russian people directly.
“The last part of the speech was talking to the Russian people, telling them what we thought,” he said. “I was communicating this to not only the Russian people, but the whole world. This is just stating a simple fact, that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”
At the end of a speech in front of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, Biden veered off script and declared that “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” referring to Putin.
The White House quickly moved to clarify that Biden was not calling for a regime change or articulating a shift in US strategy.
“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” a White House official told reporters.
Biden has made harsh remarks about the Russian president following his invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Biden has called Putin a “war criminal” and “a murderous dictator.” He also described Putin as a “butcher” earlier in the day on Saturday.
The president’s remarks drew condemnation over the weekend from French President Emmanuel Macron, a NATO ally, who suggested the comments would make it more difficult to achieve a ceasefire.
“If we want to do that, we can’t escalate either in words or actions,” Macron told France 3.
As tensions have risen to historic heights between Washington and Moscow in recent years, which has been closely tied to events in Ukraine, Russia has often accused the US of seeking regime change.
A 2017 report on Russia from the Pentagon’s intelligence arm said, “The Kremlin is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia.” The Defense Intelligence Agency report also said, “Moscow worries that US attempts to dictate a set of acceptable international norms threatens the foundations of Kremlin power by giving license for foreign meddling in Russia’s internal affairs.”
Along these lines, some experts expressed serious concerns that Biden’s speech would lead Putin to escalate the war in Ukraine.
“The comments by @potus made a difficult situation more difficult and a dangerous situation more dangerous,” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a veteran diplomat, said in a tweet on Saturday.
Some GOP critics of Biden have also accused the president of fueling Kremlin propaganda with his remarks in Warsaw. Asked about this at Monday’s news conference, Biden said he was not concerned that he’d aided Putin’s propaganda machine. “I don’t care what he thinks,” Biden said of Putin. “He’s going to do what he’s going to do.”
Responding to Biden’s remarks on Putin in Warsaw, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov over the weekend told Reuters, “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”
Following up on this on Monday, Peskov said Biden’s comments were “certainly alarming.”
“We will continue to track the statements of the US president in the most attentive way,” Peskov added, per Reuters.