Joe Biden says ‘moral outrage’ behind Putin comments, not policy change
Joe Biden has defended his controversial outburst after he appeared to call for Vladimir Putin to be removed from power.
The US President faced a chorus of disapproval after calling Putin a “butcher” and insisting the Russian leader “cannot remain in power”.
Downing Street said it was for the Russian people to choose their leader, while Mr Biden’s own foreign affairs spokesman contradicted him in an attempt to limit the diplomatic fallout.
Mr Biden has now stressed that his comment reflected his own moral outrage at Russia’s invasion and does not signal a US policy shift.
“I wasn’t then nor am I now articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I felt, and I make no apologies,” he told reporters at the White House.
He said his outburst, made at the end of a major address about Ukraine in Warsaw on Saturday, had been prompted by an emotional visit he had with families displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Biden on Monday said that he was “not walking anything back” by clarifying the remark.
Asked whether the remark would spur a negative response from Mr Putin, he said: “I don’t care what he thinks. … He’s going to do what he’s going to do.”
But Mr Biden once again suggested Mr Putin should not be leading Russia.
If Mr Putin “continues on the course that he’s on, he’s going to become a pariah worldwide and who knows what he becomes at home in terms of support,” Mr Biden said.
However, he did not rule out meeting the Russian leader saying “it depends” on what he wants to talk about.
Biden earlier this month described Putin as a “war criminal” for his role in a conflict in which many Ukrainian civilians have been killed.
He said his remark on Saturday about Putin was intended for a Russian audience. “The last part of the speech was talking to Russian people,” Biden said.
“I was communicating this to not only the Russian people, but the whole world. This is just stating a simple fact that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”