Biden made the initial comment about the Russian leader at the end of a speech in Warsaw, Poland, when he said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Earlier in the day, Biden referred to Putin as a “butcher.”
The White House then appeared to walk back the president’s comment in a statement, saying, “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.”
While taking questions from reporters on March 28, Biden said he’s “not walking anything back,” adding that he was speaking of his outrage at Putin’s actions in Ukraine and not articulating a change in U.S. policy.
“The last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia. That’s not part of it. I was expressing my outrage, the behavior of this man,” Biden said.
“It’s outrageous. It’s outrageous, and it’s more an aspiration than anything that he shouldn’t be in power. There’s no, I mean, people like this shouldn’t be ruling countries, but they do. The fact [is] they do, but doesn’t mean I can’t express my outrage about it.”
When asked later if he was concerned his comments would escalate tensions with Russia, Biden said Putin is “going to do what he’s going to do.”
Biden and Putin engaged in multiple bilateral meetings in the months leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the two haven’t spoken since before the invasion was launched on Feb. 24.
When asked if he would meet again with Putin, Biden said “it depends on what [Putin] wants to talk about.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also said there is no U.S. strategy for regime change in Russia.
“As you know, and as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter,” he said over the weekend. “In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people.”
Biden and other top U.S. officials, as well as leaders from other countries around the world, have accused Putin of war crimes for actions against civilians during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden and others have voiced support for an ongoing international investigation into the issue of war crimes.