March 28, 2022

Biden’s Speech

“The United States has no strategy of regime change for Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Sunday after President Joe Biden a day earlier said Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘cannot remain in power’… remarks a White House official said later were meant to prepare the world's democracies for extended conflict over Ukraine, not back regime change in Russia.” Reuters

Many on both sides worry that Biden’s comments risk dangerous escalation:

“Biden can fairly say it was a personal expression of loathing, but during his election campaign he often said how much the words of an American president mattered and needed to be weighed…

“It was a badly needed gift to Moscow, which has hardly had a stellar information war. Skilled at playing Washington as the imperialist bully, Moscow was quick to claim that Russians – not American leaders – chose their president. The remarks also leave the many mediators in this crisis – Turkey, Qatar and China – facing a harder task in convincing Putin there is any merit in turning back now. It is all or nothing. The US president has burned his bridges with Russia and there is no point in any negotiation, Moscow will argue, whether it believes this or not.”
Patrick Wintour, The Guardian

Threatening Putin personally is such a bad idea that I’ve wondered if the White House should explicitly say that we’re *not* seeking regime change in Russia. Putin wants Russians to believe that Ukrainian statehood is some sort of NATO plot against their country; clarifying that we have no designs on toppling Russia’s government would make it harder for him to frame his war as self-defense. Instead, Biden just ratified his theory…

“A few days ago, Putin’s spokesman was asked under what conditions he would consider using nuclear weapons. His answer: If Russia is facing an ‘existential threat.’ Putin might not distinguish an existential threat to Russia from an existential threat to his own power, though. If Biden’s remark convinces him that NATO will stop at nothing less than his ouster, is he more likely to use nukes in Ukraine than he was yesterday?… How does a guy with 50 years’ experience in foreign policy at the Senate level or higher ad lib a line as momentous as calling for regime change in Russia during a hot war in Europe?”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

Some worry, “accidental or unintentional escalation — from misperception or miscommunication — is always at least as serious a danger for war as the deliberate intention to directly engage militarily… As former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis put it on Saturday: ‘A U.S. President who, during an atrocious war, does not mean what he says on matters of War and Peace, and must be corrected by his hyperventilating staff, is a clear and present danger to all.’”

Glenn Greenwald, Substack

Others argue, “I wonder if perhaps history will vindicate this Biden ‘gaffe’ in much the way that many historians have praised comments by President Ronald Reagan that were once seen as dangerously provocative. Reagan called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire’ and predicted it would wind up on the ‘ash heap of history.’ Those tough but true words contributed to raising superpower tensions in the early 1980s, but they also inspired many behind the Iron Curtain to fight for freedom. After the Berlin Wall came down, many saw Reagan as a visionary, not as a warmonger.”

Max Boot, Washington Post

“The speech might be known in future years for one line, which the White House quickly walked back… The speech might also be remembered for the heartfelt remarks offered directly to ordinary Russians. ‘Let me say this if you’re able to listen: You, the Russian people, are not our enemy,’ Biden said. After describing this conflict’s human suffering and devastation, Biden assured the Russian people, ‘I’m telling you the truth: This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people.’ This is a wise tactic, for the Russian people will eventually have to decide Putin’s fate.”

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

From the Right

“This was Biden’s third potentially World War Three-triggering blunder in as many days. On Thursday, at the G7 summit, he told the press that if Russia used chemical weapons, his country would ‘respond in kind.’ Did he really mean the US would breach international law if Russia did? We just have to hope he didn’t…

“On Friday, speaking to the 82nd Airborne about Ukraine, Biden said: ‘You’re gonna see when you’re there — some of you have been there.’ This one was a Biden special: a gaffe that fails on two levels, since the Commander-in-Chief not only suggested that US troops were about to be sent in to the war zone – in direct contradiction to his government’s policy — he also managed to imply that his forces had already been secretly operating there.”

Freddy Gray, Spectator World

“[Mr. Biden would] be wise to bring some high-profile conservatives and Republicans into his Administration. In 1940, as the prospect of world war approached, FDR brought in experienced GOP internationalists Henry Stimson as Secretary of War and Frank Knox as Secretary of the Navy. They built credibility with the public and on Capitol Hill for the hard choices to come…

“Mr. Biden desperately needs to diversify the advice he gets beyond the liberal internationalists who dominate his councils… Mr. Biden’s muscular assertions in the written text of his Warsaw speech need to be supported by more than rhetoric. The U.S. and the West need to urgently restore and strengthen the credibility of their military and diplomatic deterrents. More hawkish advisers would send a more determined signal to the world—and especially to adversaries.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

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