Attempts by the White House to walk back President Joe Biden's call for Russian President Vladimir Putin's head during his fiery speech in Poland on Saturday were in vain.
Biden's ad-libbed line, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” could hardly have been misconstrued. The damage had been done.
A top U.S. official confirmed to Axios that this remark was not read from Biden's teleprompter, nor included in his prepared text.
Putin responded to Biden's irresponsible language by launching a spectacular missile strike on a fuel depot and a military factory in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, approximately 50 miles from the Polish border.
The Australian media called the Russian rocket attack "a deadly warning to the U.S." after Biden's inflammatory remarks. Prior to his speech, the president had spoken to Ukrainian refugees in Poland and called Putin a "butcher.''
During a Sunday broadcast on Australia's 7News Melbourne, the program's host spoke to Geof Parry, who was reporting from Lviv. She said, "It appears that missile strike had another intended target."
"Perhaps it was a message for U.S. President Joe Biden, who was across the border in neighboring Poland visiting American troops and Ukrainian refugees," Parry replied.
"He gave what some are describing as the speech of his presidency. So inflammatory was his language that the White House had to issue a statement afterwards watering it down," he said. "Now Ukraine says it needs more than just words, but the president's speech certainly gave a clear message to Moscow."
The lead photo in this article refers to this obviously disturbing episode from yesterday, which followed Biden's decree of regime change for Putin as the US goal, accompanied by a confusing and unpersuasive WH walk back, the third for Biden in 2 weeks:https://t.co/t4rv4ILBZz
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 27, 2022
A Russian president threatened by NATO expansion and driven by "legacy," on the other side of a US president with a long record of hawkishness, now hobbled by the carelessness and infirmities of old age, is a volatile combination. Each day, getting worse.https://t.co/v6gHu9RHlC
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 27, 2022
As we hear Biden's gaffe-filled pronouncements and mixed messaging regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it's hard not to speculate about how much differently former President Donald Trump would have dealt with this crisis.
It's highly likely Putin wouldn't have even considered invading Ukraine if Trump were still the president. It's also very likely that once Putin began massing his troops along the Ukrainian border last fall, Trump could have prevented his ultimate attack through boldness, decisiveness and diplomacy. In other words, through leadership.
Under Trump, the U.S. was running the world. The world reacted to us.
Now we're reacting to the world. That is not a recipe for peace.
Biden has been adamant about preventing U.S. involvement in a direct war with Russia. Yet, he caused an uproar Friday when he appeared to tell U.S. troops in Poland they would be going into Ukraine.
Then, a day later, he suddenly blurted out a call for regime change in Russia. That's a pretty provocative statement from a president who wants this to remain a proxy war.
Biden also labeled Putin, who has twice said his country's nuclear weapons are in a state of readiness, a "butcher" and a "war criminal."
Deliberate statements from former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a Saturday interview indicated his country's use of nuclear weapons is on the table, according to a report in the U.K.'s Guardian.
“We have a special document on nuclear deterrence. This document clearly indicates the grounds on which the Russian Federation is entitled to use nuclear weapons. ... And the fourth case is when an act of aggression is committed against Russia and its allies, which jeopardized the existence of the country itself, even without the use of nuclear weapons, that is, with the use of conventional weapons,” Medvedev said in an ominous warning to the United States.
(Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Monday that Biden's remark that Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" was a cause for alarm, a guarded response to the first public call from the United States for an end to Putin's 22-year rule.
"For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power"
— Phil Stewart (@phildstewart) March 28, 2022
Would Putin consider a call for regime change in Russia a reason to use nuclear weapons?
Biden's handling of Russia's invasion so far shows a lack of clarity.
Rather than setting out clear objectives when Putin's troop buildup began and working to accomplish them, the Biden administration appears to be making it up as it goes along.
Rather than responding to new developments with a coherent, unified message, Biden and his team are reacting.
Instead of providing leadership and setting the tone, they are leading from behind, a failed strategy that didn't work for the Obama administration and isn't working now.
This lack of clarity is simply one more example of Biden's weakness on the world stage. The problem is that the stakes are now far higher, and his reckless and sometimes opposite reactions could trigger a nuclear world war.