President Biden’s Putin speech in Poland is a catastrophe

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He came, he saw, he confused. 

Joe Biden’s call-to-arms speech in Poland was long on soaring rhetoric about the virtues of democracy but woefully short on what more the West will do to help Ukraine defeat the Russian invasion. But by the time he got to the finish, most of that was forgotten. 

What mattered most and what will be remembered for a long time was a single line the president of the United States said about the president of Russia: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” 

In the context of the speech and the slaughter of Ukrainian civilians, it’s impossible to understand that line as anything other than a call for regime change, a move that would dramatically raise the stakes with Russia at a time when Biden has been at pains to lower them. 

It also raises the question of whether toppling Putin, a subject never before mentioned by the White House, is suddenly the new policy of the United States and NATO. 

Ah, no. 

Shortly after the speech, a Biden aide told pool reporters that “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.” 

Slip-up on world stage 

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference in Moscow.
Yuri Kochetkov/AP

Unbelievable. So what Biden so clearly said is not at all what he meant. 

How in the hell can a line like that, so explicit that it could potentially lead to World War III, get into a presidential address if the plain meaning wasn’t the intent? Even if the speech writers screwed up, didn’t anybody in the White House, State Department or Pentagon read the final draft? 

Was it Russian disinformation, like Hunter Biden’s emails? Or maybe the dramatic line just walked into the speech by itself? 

Then again, maybe it wasn’t in there at all. Maybe the idea just popped into Biden’s addled brain and he added it on the fly. 

However the White House eventually explains itself, it won’t be good enough. Not by a long shot. 

This was at least the fourth time on the three-day trip that something Biden said had to be walked back, cleaned up, clarified or refuted. 

No, there will not be food shortages in America, despite what he suggested. 

No, American troops in Poland are not headed to Ukraine, despite what Biden told them. 

Crowds of people gathered in Warsaw to listen to President Biden's speech.
Crowds of people gathered in Warsaw to listen to President Biden’s speech.
Marcin Wziontek/Shutterstock

No, the United States will not use chemical weapons, even if Russia does, despite the president seeming to threaten it would. 

And now no, we’re not pushing for regime change in Russia. 

It’s a helluva way to end a trip that is the most important of Biden’s presidency. He’s underwater with voters on almost every domestic issue, some by lopsided margins, and his party could be facing a midterm wipeout, which would largely neuter his term. 

So much for smooth trip 

Presidents in trouble at home often turn to foreign policy, where they command the stage alone and have far more power. In a sense, Biden had little choice because the televised brutality of the war in Ukraine overshadowed everything in Washington, including the confirmation hearings of his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would become the court’s first black woman. 

President Joe Biden participates in an arrival ceremony with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the Presidential Palace.
Biden arrived in Warsaw, Poland on March 26, 2022.
Marcin Wziontek/Shutterstock

While the White House initially tried to keep the focus on the home front, it more recently embraced the opportunity to show Biden leading the free world against Russia. The trip to Brussels to meet with NATO leaders and then go to the edge of NATO’s boundaries in Poland to meet with Ukrainian refugees seemed crafted to give the president a political boost at home. 

The photo ops were great: holding a refugee child, eating pizza with troops dispatched to Poland, huddling with the other members of the world’s most powerful military alliance. 

All of it would come together Saturday, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan promising the speech would capture “the urgency of the challenge that lies ahead, what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world.” 

It had some success toward those goals, but even before the botched finish, the big picture Biden painted was hollow. He spoke as if his job was to persuade people at home and in Europe of the stakes involved, but they already know that. 

The vast majority of American and European publics have seen the cruel Russian bombardments of hospitals, schools and apartment houses and don’t need to be convinced Putin is the bad guy. They are beyond that and want their governments to boost the considerable military and humanitarian aid already given to the heroic Ukrainians. 

Perhaps more than their leaders, the public believes Ukraine can actually win the war, and wants the defenders to have the tools to do it. It’s what the Ukrainians want, too. 

US wants real leadership 

Biden called Putin a "butcher" during his speech in Poland.
Biden called Putin a “butcher” during his trip in Poland.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

As for Biden, a recent Fox poll showed that by a whopping 63-32% margin, Americans think the US should be doing more to help defeat Russia. 

His trip was supposed to answer that demand and be a clarion call for a united front. Instead, he offered another drip-drip-drip assistance package that won’t change the facts on the ground now or maybe ever. 

Predictably, it was all wrapped in his usual cringe-worthy incoherence. 

Given the stakes, an uncertain trumpet is worse than ineffective, it is dangerous. 

To Putin, the garbled message means he has nothing new to worry about.



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