US scrambles to clarify Biden's Russia 'regime change' message

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the Royal Castle, Saturday, March 26, 2022, in Warsaw.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the Royal Castle, Saturday, March 26, 2022, in Warsaw.   -   Copyright  AP Photo

The US Administration has scrambled to try and clarify apparently unscripted comments made by President Joe Biden, in which he appeared to call for 'regime change' in Russia.

At the end of a speech in Warsaw on Saturday, Biden said Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power."

The White House had to qualify those comments saying: "What the President meant was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region."

"He was not talking about Putin's power in Russia, nor about regime change" the White House stated.

Biden's seemingly ad lib comments drew criticism from commentators in the US and Europe.

American cable news host Mehdi Hassan called it "Biden’s first major misstep"; while California Representative Darrell Issa, and others, pointed out a number of errors Biden had made recently which the White House had to later clarify; and BBC News Foreign Editor Paul Danahar called the comments a calamitous gaffe, saying: "It totally plays to Putin’s agenda and makes negotiating with the Kremlin much, much harder."

Jacquelyn Martin/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a news conference in Jerusalem, Sunday, March 27, 2022Jacquelyn Martin/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also had to do damage control over Biden's remarks, saying the US is not trying to topple the Russian president, despite harsh condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

At a news conference in Jerusalem, Blinken said Biden’s point was that “Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else.”

Blinken stated that the US has repeatedly said “we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else for that matter.”

“In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people,” Blinken said.

President Macron distances himself from Biden's comments

French President Emmanuel Macron distanced himself from Biden's comments on Sunday. 

In an interview with France-3 television, Macron said “we should be factual and [...] do everything so that the situation doesn’t get out of control.”

Macron said: “I wouldn’t use those terms, because I continue to speak to President Putin, because what we want to do collectively is that we want to stop the war Russia launched in Ukraine, without waging war and without an escalation.”

President Macron has spoken several times with Vladimir Putin before and during the conflict in an attempt at peacemaking. He is due to speak to the Russian president again either on Sunday or Monday. 

Macron stressed that the US remains an important ally, saying, “We share many common values, but those who live next to Russia are the Europeans.”