Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz have distanced themselves from the remarks of US President Joe Biden touting regime change in Russia, in which he called Russia’s President Vladimir Putin a “butcher”.
Biden’s comments came in the course of his official visit to Europe, during which he stopped in Brussels for a NATO summit before heading to Warsaw, in Poland, where he addressed a crowd of people, just 70km away from the bombings in Kyiv.
Macron in talks with Putin
Unlike the message conveyed by Biden calling for the prevention of Putin from remaining in power, both the French President and the German Chancellor stated their desire to retain a channel of communication with Putin in hopes of negotiating an end to the ongoing conflict by diplomatic means.
“We must first be factual and do everything to prevent the situation from getting out of hand”, Macron declared, as quoted by Le Monde. He said he would not resort to “this kind of remark”, given his role to “continue in discussions with President Putin.”
Germany steps back, defends US
Chancellor Scholz assured the German public in a broadcast yesterday that the prospect of Putin’s removal from office was not “the objective of NATO nor that of the American president.” Democracy, freedom and law have a future everywhere, he said. “It is up to peoples and nations to fight for this freedom.”
UK leaves it up to the Russians
Macron’s comments were echoed in the UK, where Britain’s Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, told Sky News that it was up to the Russian people to decide who should lead them, when asked whether Downing Street believes Putin should leave power. However, she acknowledged that Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine, coupled with crippling Western sanctions, could play a factor in determining who is in charge in Moscow.
White House retracts claims
After Biden’s impassioned speech in Warsaw and the rain of criticism that followed, the White House issued a retraction, saying that Biden had not been “calling for regime change” in Russia.
US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, also reacted to the speech, telling a press conference in Jerusalem yesterday that he did not think the President or the White House had made the point sufficiently clear that, “quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else.” According to RT, Blinken told reporters “we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia – or anywhere else, for that matter.”
Yanus Varoufakis, the former Finance Minister of Greece, and a current MP was not mollified by Blinken’s remarks. “A US 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”, he declared.
In his weekly Eurointelligence column, the German analyst Wolfgang Münchau said: “Joe Biden’s comments about regime change are a reminder that we can’t leave the strategic thinking to the Americans.” He highlighted the risks posed by such games when confronting a nuclear power. “From a European perspective, nothing good can come from a US president rambling about regime change in Russia because it raises the possibility of a nuclear war in Europe”, he wrote.
Meanwhile, Turkey prepares to the next round of face-to-face negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, which Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said will take place tomorrow, in Istanbul.