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President Joe Biden sought to rally the world’s democracies for what he said would be a long fight against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine during a speech in Warsaw on Saturday, and wrapped up a forceful indictment of Russian President Vladimir Putin for what he described as an assault on the rules-based international order that has prevailed since World War II with what appeared to be a call for the Russian leader to be removed from power.
“This battle will not be won in days or months,” Biden said at the beginning of his speech, and toward the end, urged Western democracies to “commit to being in this fight for the long haul.”
Biden warned Russia, “Don’t even think about going on one single inch of NATO territory,” hours after assuring the United States’ “sacred commitment” to the alliance’s Article 5 collective defense principle.
Biden said Europe must end its dependence on Russian oil and natural gas, and that the world must hasten its transition to renewable energy, putting to an end “the days of any nation being subject to the whims of a tyrant for its energy needs.”
Biden addressed Russians directly, saying, “You, the Russian people, are not our enemy.”
Condemning Putin’s actions, Biden said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
The White House sought to walk back what appeared to be a call by the president for Putin’s ouster, with an administration official 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.”
It’s unusual for a U.S. president to call for the removal of a fellow world leader. Earlier in the month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS the U.S. did not intend to remove Putin from office, adding it would be the Russian public’s decision whether or not to keep him in power. Biden sought to use the speech to rally U.S. allies in what he called a “battle between democracy and autocracy,” harking back to the exhortations of Pope John Paul II in 1978 to “be not afraid,” which encouraged the Solidarity movement in its fight against Soviet domination of Poland. Biden enumerated the financial commitments the U.S. has made to Ukraine and to Europe to enable it to transition away from Russian energy, and touted the effectiveness of Western economic sanctions, which he said were proving to have the “power to inflict damage that rivals military might.”