President Joe Biden delivered a forceful and highly personal condemnation of Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Saturday, summoning a call for liberal democracy and a durable resolve among Western nations in the face of a brutal autocrat.
As he capped a four-day trip to Europe, a blend of emotive scenes with refugees and standing among other world leaders in grand settings, Biden said of Putin: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
It was a dramatic escalation in rhetoric — Biden had earlier called Putin a “butcher” — that the White House found itself quickly walking back. Before Biden could even board Air Force One to begin the flight back to Washington, aides were clarifying that he wasn’t calling for an immediate change in government in Moscow.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov quickly denounced Biden, saying “it’s not up to the president of the U.S. and not up to the Americans to decide who will remain in power in Russia.”
While Biden’s blunt language grabbed headlines, in other pieces of his roughly 30-minute speech before Warsaw’s iconic Royal Castle he urged Western allies to brace for what will be a turbulent road ahead in a “new battle for freedom.”