- President Joe Biden clarified Monday that his remark over the weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" does not reflect a policy shift by the United States.
- "I was expressing the moral outrage I felt" after having visited with Ukrainian refugees. "I was not then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change," Biden said.
- Biden's explanation should help to smooth ruffled feathers among European leaders, several of whom complained that Biden's off the cuff remark risked escalating a broader conflict between Putin and the West.
President Joe Biden on Monday clarified that his statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" made over the weekend doesn't reflect a policy shift by the United States.
Biden spoke at the White House two days after he shocked the world and his closest aides on Saturday when he ad-libbed the line during a major speech in Poland. What followed was a flurry of headlines saying Biden was calling for a regime change in Russia.
Despite the uproar, Biden stood by his original statement. "I'm not walking anything back," he told reporters at a speech that was originally going to focus on the budget.
"I was expressing the moral outrage I felt" after having visited with Ukrainian refugees.
"I was not then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change," Biden added.
Putin "shouldn't remain in power, just like, you know, bad people shouldn't continue to do bad things," he continued. "That doesn't mean we have a fundamental policy to do anything to take Putin down in any way."
Biden stressed that he was attempting to speak directly to the Russian people, to say to them, "this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable, and the way to deal with it is to strengthen and keep NATO completely united."
Biden's explanation will likely help to smooth ruffled feathers among European leaders, several of whom complained that Biden's remark risked escalating a broader war between Putin and the West.
Biden had previously hurled invectives at Putin throughout the crisis in Ukraine, labeling him a "murderous dictator" and a "war criminal."
But until Saturday, the president had stopped short of calling for Putin's removal from power.
"A dictator, bent on rebuilding an empire, will never erase the people's love for liberty," Biden said at the end of a sweeping speech in Poland. "Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness."
"For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," Biden said.
As the potential significance of Biden's remark gained steam on Sunday, both the White House and the president's top diplomat tried to walk it back.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that the U.S. government does not envision a regime change in Russia, and that Biden simply meant that Putin cannot be allowed to continue to wage war in Europe.
"As you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia — or anywhere else, for that matter," Blinken told reporters during a trip to Israel.