In off-the-cuff remarks, President Joe Biden on Saturday said Putin can not remain in power,
The White House quickly walked back Biden’s statement.
Foreign policy experts say the remarks could make Putin less likely to show restraint.
President Joe Biden’s remarks that Russian President Vladimir Putin should no longer be in power could give Putin the freedom to stop showing any restraint, experts told The Washington Post.
At the end of his speech from the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, Biden said “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
The White House has since walked back the comments, saying that Biden’s remarks were not calling for regime change in Russia.
“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 said, according to Fox News.
However, some foreign policy experts say Biden’s comments could escalate tensions and make a diplomatic end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine even more complicated to reach.
Richard Haass, a veteran diplomat and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Post that Biden’s remarks don’t achieve the priorities of “ending the war on terms Ukraine can accept, and discouraging any escalation by Putin.”
“It discourages Putin from any compromise essentially — if you’ve got everything to lose, it frees him up. Why should he show any restraint?” Haass added. “And it confirms his worst fears, which is that this is what the United States seeks his ouster and systemic change.”
Haass told Politico that while the White House immediately walked back those comments, the fact that Biden’s comments were off the cuff “could be read as Biden’s genuine belief as opposed to his scripted words.”
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the Post the remarks make him concerned that top officials in Biden’s administration may not be thinking about ways to end the war.
“If they were, Biden’s head wouldn’t be in a place where he’s saying, ‘Putin must go.’ The only way to get to war termination is to negotiate with this guy,” O’Hanlon said.
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