- In recent weeks, US President Joe Biden has steadily escalated his attacks on Russia’s Vladimir Putin – at the risk of misguided allies and even his own team.
- Biden went further than any other top administrative official to date, using for the first time the loaded term to characterize attacks on Ukrainian civilians by Putin’s forces.
- The White House, as before, prepared journalists behind the scenes for a clarification – but no one in particular has done so.
A “war criminal” and “butcher” who “can not stay in power”: In recent weeks, US President Joe Biden has steadily escalated his attacks on Russia’s Vladimir Putin – at the risk of misguided allies and even his own team.
The latest, most striking example: Biden’s accusation of a Russian “genocide” during a Tuesday speech on biofuels and helping Americans with the cost of living.
Biden went further than any other top administrative official to date, using for the first time the loaded term to characterize attacks on Ukrainian civilians by Putin’s forces.
The White House, as before, prepared journalists behind the scenes for a clarification – but no one in particular has done so.
Instead of being asked later if he meant what he said, Biden doubled down.
“Yes, I called it genocide,” the president said, adding that he would let lawyers decide “whether it qualifies” as such.
“It has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to obliterate the idea of being able to be Ukrainian at all.”
On Wednesday, the US envoy to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Michael Carpenter, told reporters that it would be up to international law experts to weigh the evidence and determine whether Russia’s actions meet the definition of genocide.
“It will take some time to get implemented, but in the meantime, the president has made a very clear moral decision on this issue,” he said.
Russian forces are accused of arbitrarily killing Ukrainian civilians, including in Bucha on the outskirts of Kiev, and the “genocide” remark also came amid unconfirmed reports that Moscow used chemical means.
The Kremlin backed Biden’s comment, calling it “hardly acceptable for the US president” to “try to distort the situation in this way”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in no doubt about what Biden’s words meant.
“True words from a true leader … Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil,” he tweeted.
White House officials have been more discerning than the boss in outlining carefully worded responses to each new development in the conflict – yet Biden has repeatedly gone one step further.
Last week, he called reports of Russian atrocities in Ukraine a “war crime,” but opposed using the term genocide.
He also called Putin a “war criminal” after Zelensky’s heavy-handed appeal to the US Congress for help last month, only for his officials to try to soften the remark later.
Biden’s employees were similarly surprised 10 days later in Poland when the president called Putin a “butcher” who “can not remain in power”.
The White House went ahead and clarified within minutes that Biden was not in favor of “regime change”.
Biden largely stood by his words, though he later explained the comments were not a policy change but an expression of “moral indignation”.
The president has been criticized on every occasion, but the frequency of the controversies may indicate that he is deliberately pulling more cautious aides into a tougher stance against Russia.
Bombarded by journalists’ questions Wednesday about Biden’s sliding “genocide” into a speech on U.S. gas prices, White House spokesman Jen Psaki said:
He is the President of the United States and the leader of the free world, and he is allowed to make his views known whenever he wants.
While Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have refused to use the word “genocide,” Biden is sure to have pleased hawks from both sides of Capitol Hill, who have pushed the White House to a more harsh response.
“It’s a genocide,” Chuck Schumer, the leader of Biden’s Democrats in the Senate, said on April 6.
“When these people are shot simply because of their nationality, they have no weapons, it’s genocide – especially when it happens in the large numbers it already has.”
Other leaders in the Western alliance have been more reticent.
French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the use of the term “butcher” and has refused to follow Biden in using the term “genocide”.
“I will try as much as possible to continue to be able to stop this war and rebuild peace,” he said. “I’m not sure verbal escalations serve this purpose.”
A European diplomat told AFP that Biden was trying to reach out in terms that would be robust enough to satisfy Congress while avoiding harming the pursuit of a negotiated solution.
The president on Wednesday announced a new $ 800 million military aid package to Ukraine, including armored personnel carriers and helicopters, as the country faces a renewed Russian offensive in the Donbas region.
But he has ruled out sending troops or getting involved in the conflict in any other way, meaning the only option still on the table to attack Putin is the occasional verbal broadside.
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Biden rejects more moderate voices and is Putin’s top accuser
Source link Biden rejects more moderate voices and is Putin’s top accuser