President Biden delivered a speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday evening, concluding his four-day trip to Europe with what has been widely interpreted as a shocking call for regime change in Russia.
In his speech, Biden promised that the United States would accept thousands of Ukrainian refugees, reaffirmed that American troops would not be sent to fight in Ukraine and touted his plan to help Europe “end its dependence on Russian fossil fuels”.
Biden previously announced this “game plan,” which includes allocating more U.S. natural gas to the European market and accelerating Europe’s transition to clean energy sources, Friday in Brussels.
He then addressed the Russian people, accusing Putin of increasing the resolve of Western democracies and causing a “brain drain” in Russia.
“You, the Russian people, are not our enemy,” Biden said, reciting a catalog of atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. “These are not the actions of a great nation…Vladimir Putin’s aggression has cut you off, the Russian people, from the rest of the world. He takes Russia back to the 19th century. It’s not who you are… This war is not worthy of you, Russian people.”
Biden ended his speech with a seemingly clear call for Putin’s impeachment. “A dictator determined to rebuild an empire will never erase a people’s love for freedom,” he said. “For the love of God, this man can’t stay in power.”
The Biden administration has previously been wary of calls for regime change in Russia. When Sen. Lindsay Graham (RS.C.) earlier this month called a Russian “Brutus” for assassinating Putin, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said her comments did not reflect ” the position of the United States government,” NPR reported. Days later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that US opposition to the invasion of Ukraine is “not about regime change” in Russia.
Update 7:15 p.m.: A White House statement after Biden’s remarks on Saturday said Biden was not calling Putin’s ouster: “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to wield power over his neighbors or over the region. He wasn’t discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”