President Joe Biden, casting the support for Ukraine as the “task of our time,” also issued a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, that his widely condemned attack on neighboring Ukraine also should spell the end of his grip on power.
“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness, who will have a different future, a brighter future rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light, of decency and dignity, of freedom and possibilities,” Biden said. “For God’s sake this man cannot remain in power.”
Yet as many in the media quickly keyed in on Biden’s statement as a call for regime change in Russia, the White House quickly issued a statement clarifying what he meant.
“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” a White House official said. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
The president’s remark apparently was ad libbed, and he said it as he was in his final moments of the address.
Biden was finishing up a visit to Europe and appeared before a crowd gathered in Warsaw, and gave a speech that urged continued unity against Russia.The speech was billed as a major address about the war, evident in the backdrop chosen for the president to deliver it: The Royal Castle, rebuilt after the Nazis completely destroyed it after the Warsaw uprising of 1944.
Biden’s speech characterized the fight for Ukraine’s future as analagous to other battles for democracy, as he invoked the words of Pope John Paul II, who in a visit to his native Poland in 1979, in a the midst of a resistance movement to Soviet domination, said that they should “be not afraid.”
“Time and again, history shows that, from the darkest moments, the greatest progress follows,” Biden said. “And history shows that this is the task of our time, the task of this generation. Let’s remember the hammer ball that brought down the Berlin wall, he might that lifted the Iron Curtain, were not the words of a single leader, it was the people of Europe, who for decades, fought to free themselves.”
The president warned that “we need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead,” but also reaffirmed that the U.S. and its NATO allies would not get directly involved in the military battle itself.
Biden has visited American forces in Poland to bolster NATO front line defenses. “The reason we want to make clear is …don’t even think about moving on one single inch of NATO territory,” he said. Ukrainian officials have been pressing the U.S. and its allies for greater support, including a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but there is worry that would lead to a direct conflict with Russia.
The White House has expressed concerns that Russia would take to using chemical weapons in Ukraine, and Biden has warned that there would be a NATO response, although he has declined to say what that would be. In his speech, he said that the invasion of Ukraine was a “strategic failure” for Russia.
Before Biden spoke, there were reports of airstrikes on Lviv, the western city in Ukraine, about 400 miles from Warsaw. Many journalists and anchors have been stationed to cover the war.
The president said that Russia “has strangled democracy and fought to do so elsewhere,” but he also tried to appeal to the Russian people.
“I’ve always spoken directly and honestly to the Russian people. Let me say this if you are able to listen. You the Russian people are not our enemy. I refuse to believe that you welcome the killing of innocent children and grandparents, or thhat you accept hospitals, schools, maternity wards, for God’s sake, being pummeled by Russian missiles and bombs.”
He said that Putin’s aggression “has cut you, the Russian people, off from the rest of the world, and is taking Russia back to the 19th Century. This is not who you are.”
"President Biden on Vladimir Putin: "For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power." pic.twitter.com/mBXjs9GFlk
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 26, 2022
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