Some things are best not said aloud.
President Joe Biden spoke in Warsaw, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” as a result of his invasion of Ukraine.
The sentiment is admirable, but for Biden to include those words in a speech will, in all likelihood, not only stiffen Putin’s resolve but will also (a) rally support in the higher echelons of the regime behind him and (b) will allow Putin, however ludicrously, to portray the U.S. as a would-be aggressor, propaganda that may be believed by a population softened up by the messages that they have been hearing for a long time now.
And then, as NR’s Zachary Evans notes, “a White House official issued a comment minutes later saying that Biden was not calling for regime change.”
The “clarification” was the right thing to do (there was no choice, really), but the net effect is that Biden can be portrayed by Moscow as bellicose, while simultaneously coming across as weak to nervous allies in the East, and hopelessly muddled to allies elsewhere and, of course, to adversaries and the undecided across the globe.
So another unforced error from Biden, and a reminder that the road from Kabul to Kyiv has not been a long one.
Oh yes, there was also this (via the New York Post):
President Biden told US troops in Poland Friday that they will witness the bravery of Ukrainians fighting off Russia’s invasion “when you’re there” — making a significant gaffe after he previously said the US must stay out of the European conflict to avoid triggering “World War III.”
Biden made the remark while addressing members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division after lunching on pizza and posing for selfies with dozens of paratroopers at a mess hall in Rzeszow, southeastern Poland.
“You’re going to see when you’re there, and some of you have been there, you’re gonna see — you’re gonna see women, young people standing in the middle in front of a damned tank just saying, ‘I’m not leaving, I’m holding my ground,’” Biden said.
A White House official quickly clarified that Biden wasn’t changing his stance on deploying the military into Ukraine.
Clarification after clarification . . .
Careless talk costs lives, as the saying used to go.
Meanwhile, it’s impossible to know what to make of (earlier) reports such as this.
A month into its invasion, Russia appears to be reducing its war aims from capturing all of Ukraine to merely holding the Donbass region–which a top Russian military officer said Friday was the goal from the start, but which Pentagon said may be a result of Russia’s intelligence failures.
“Our forces and equipment will focus on the most important thing, the complete liberation of Donbass,” Russian General Staff head of military operations Sergei Rudskoi said at a Friday briefing in Moscow, as reported by Interfax. Rudskoi said the month-long invasion had completed its first phase and achieved its purpose: keeping Ukraine from retaking the separatist-controlled Donbass territories.
True, disinformation, or, maybe even a reflection of internal divisions in Moscow? It’s impossible to say.
The Daily Telegraph:
The Kremlin has reasserted that it wants to “de-Nazify” Ukraine – code for regime change – less than 24 hours after its generals hinted that they wanted to pull back.
Commenting on peace negotiations with Kyiv, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, told the RIA-Novosti news agency that the Kremlin’s objectives had not shifted from Feb 24, when the war started.
He said: “The purpose of these negotiations is clear – to fix all the results that … the special operation is aimed at. Namely, the neutral status of Ukraine, its demilitarisation, the refusal to use Nazi ideological laws that were adopted by Ukraine.”
The Kremlin has been trailing some highlights from this interview since it was filmed two days ago. However, it was released in full on Saturday morning and appears to be aimed at dampening speculation that it wants to pull back its exhausted army after a month of tough combat . . .