President Biden on Monday refused to disavow his impassioned demand that Russian President Vladimir Putin step down from power, insisting that he was expressing a personal opinion and not U.S. policy.
“I’m not walking anything back,” Mr. Biden told reporters. “The fact of the matter is that I was expressing moral outrage. I wasn’t then nor am I now articulating any policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt then and I make no apologies for it.”
“This was just stating a simple fact that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable,” Mr. Biden said.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” the president said in the speech.
It drew a rebuke from U.S. allies in Europe and others for suggesting that the U.S. supported a policy of regime change in Moscow.
“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.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other U.S. officials on Sunday took to the TV talk show to further walk back Mr. Biden‘s remarks.
Mr. Blinken insisted the U.S. was not pursuing “a strategy of regime change in Moscow.”
U.S. allies, including French President Emmanuel Macron and senior British and Turkish officials, also distanced themselves from Mr. Biden‘s rhetoric. They expressed concern that the president’s comments marked an escalation in the war.
On Monday, Mr. Biden repeated the lines that sparked the controversy.
“He shouldn’t be in power,” Mr. Biden said of his Russian counterpart. “People like this shouldn’t be ruling countries, but they do. The fact is that they do, but it doesn’t mean I can’t express my outrage about it.”
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at email@example.com.
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