After refusing to give Ukraine Polish fighter jets and refusing to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine in order to avoid a direct conflict with Russia, President Biden has seeming gone out of his way to provoke Russian President Putin by calling for regime change in Russia. All that careful work by his counselors and handlers, out the window thanks to one careless phrase.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden ad-libbed at the end of his speech in Poland on Saturday, a speech in which he condemned Putin for his brutality and lies. Talk about poking a bear with a stick! Coming just days after calling Putin a war criminal and a murderous thug, this is a direct affront to Putin’s ego. Putin can probably shrug off the death of 10,000 soldiers more easily than he can a call for regime change in Russia.
Check out the coverage of this story from RT (Russia Today) for an example of how the “demand” for regime change is being positioned in Russia.
While white house aides later tried to clear up the meaning of Biden’s statement, it left no doubt how Biden really feels about Putin. There is speculation that the two countries can never have a “normal” relationship again, at least while these two presidents are at the helm of their respective countries.
Biden is no Reagan
When President Reagan spoke out against the Soviet Union, he often used humor instead of vitriol, and avoided personal animosity. He challenged the country, not the man with his finger on the nuclear trigger. Of course, no one has ever accused Biden of being Reagan-caliber leader. He certainly isn’t a Reaganesque speaker, often mumbling his way through speeches, repeating phrases, whispering some expressions, and then shouting others.
Reagan helped end the Cold War. With his latest comments, Biden may exacerbate a hot war and contributing to a new cold war. Russia reportedly launched several missiles at Lyiv, a major Ukrainian city close to the Polish border, as a message to Biden. It would not surprise me to see Russia launch a few cyberattacks at the United States, something that they can deny yet sends a message.
Russian has been signaling that it no longer wants to take over all of Ukraine, or even to capture its capital, Kiev. In the past 36 hours, statements from Russian leaders have seemed to imply that they will settle for taking over Donblas. Doing so would allow Putin to tell the Russian people they have won the war, as they will never know the true scale of Russian losses inside Russia.
The danger is that Biden’s statement could change Putin’s mind. He might decide to flatten Kyiv, or attack Odessa from the sea. He might even decide to use nuclear weapons in a fit of pique.
I bet it’s both an interesting and dangerous time to be an aide to Putin. Too bad the Russians don’t have a history of writing tell-all books after the fact.