Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot not remain in power, and his war against Ukraine has been a strategic failure for Moscow, said U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said while speaking to a crowd in Warsaw, Poland during his trip to Europe. Biden continued that the Russo-Ukrainian war had united the West, adding that NATO was a defensive alliance which never sought Russia’s demise. He made these remarks in a speech in Poland’s capital that served as the capstone on a four-day trip to Europe. “Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness,” Biden said. “We will have a different future, a brighter future, rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light, of decency and dignity of freedom and possibilities. For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Earlier, after meeting with Ukrainian refugees, Biden also on Saturday called Putin a “butcher.”
After Biden’s speech, the White House walked back his remarks somewhat: “The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
At a meeting at Presidential Palace in Warsaw Biden told Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, “Your freedom is ours,” echoing one of Poland’s unofficial mottos. The two leaders spoke of their mutual respect and shared goals to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Biden called the “collective defense” agreement of NATO a “sacred commitment,” and said the unity of the Western military alliance was of the utmost importance. “I’m confident that Vladimir Putin was counting on dividing NATO… But he hasn’t been able to do it. We’ve all stayed together.”
Also on Saturday Biden spoke inside the Royal Castle, one of Warsaw’s notable landmarks that was badly damaged during World War II. Speaking with words of the Polish-born Pope John Paul II and anti-communist Polish dissident and former president, Lech Walesa, he warned that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to bring “decades of war.” “In this battle we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days, or months, either,”
The crowd of about 1,000 included some of the Ukrainian refugees who have fled for Poland and elsewhere. “We must commit now, to be this fight for the long haul,” Biden added.
Biden also saw and spoke with Ukrainian refugees in Poland at Warsaw’s National Stadium. Reportedly he admired their spirit and resolve in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion as he met with mothers and children and promised support from the West. Biden listened as children described their perilous flight from neighboring Ukraine with their parents. The president greeted the children, held hands with parents and gave them hugs during the stop at the soccer stadium where refugees go to obtain a Polish identification number that gives them access to social services such as health care and schools.
Some of the women and children told Biden that they fled without their husbands and fathers, men of fighting age who were required to remain behind to aid the resistance against Putin’s forces. Biden spoke afterwards to reported on the meetings: “What I am always surprised by is the depth and strength of the human spirit.. Each one of those children said something to the effect of, ‘Say a prayer for my dad or grandfather or my brother who is out there fighting.”
“You’re in the midst of a fight between democracies and oligarchs,” he told members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division during a visit to their temporary headquarters in Poland as well on Saturday. “Is democracy going to prevail and the values we share, or are autocracies going to prevail?”