President Biden is ratcheting up pressure on Vladimir Putin, targeting the Russian leader, his family and his inner circle with words and actions.
The Biden administration sanctioned Putin himself, his daughters, many of his personal friends and top aides in an effort to pressure the Russian leader over his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden also raised his tone with Putin, calling him a war criminal, saying he can’t stay in power, and recently calling his actions genocide on Tuesday.
The tough speech included some unscripted moments — like when Biden, during a speech in Warsaw, Poland, called for an end to Putin’s power in Russia. The White House was quickly forced to retract those comments, and Biden said, days later, on American soil, that he was not pushing for a change in US policy.
Recently, the harsh rhetoric has once again raised eyebrows abroad — and some implicit criticism.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in an interview with radio station France 2, refused to use the term “genocide” when referring to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
I want to keep trying, as much as I can, to stop this war and rebuild peace. I’m not sure that escalating the rhetoric serves this cause.
Biden has shown no signs of concern about any of his harsh comments, which analysts other than Macron have sometimes criticized as cornering Putin.
During a speech Tuesday in Iowa, Biden bemoaned that Americans should not feel the blow to their wallets because “a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away.”
It was the first time Biden or any US official had publicly referred to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting atrocities as genocide.
Biden later clarified that the comment was not a slip of the tongue and a reflection of his anger over Putin’s actions, though he noted that the US government had not made an official decision on the genocide.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing on Wednesday that Biden would allow necessary legal action around a potential genocide, but he was basing his comments on emerging reports and intelligence about what is going on in Ukraine.
Psaki pointed to the reported atrocities in Bosha, the bombing of a train station in Mariupol that left dozens of civilians dead, and a United Nations report of at least 4,450 civilian casualties since Russia launched its invasion in mid-February.
“We’ve also seen, and I think since the beginning of that, that the rhetoric of the Kremlin and the Russian media are denying the identity of the Ukrainian people,” Psaki said. “So the president has been talking about what we’re all seeing, and what he’s feeling is clear every day regarding the atrocities that are happening on the ground.”
Evelyn Farkas, the top defense official for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia during the Obama administration, said Biden is likely to get more information than is known — from Ukraine and US intelligence — leading to some of his more vocal statements.
She said, “The president has every right and he should use his platform to make assessments that he deems politically and geopolitically accurate.”
But Biden’s speech drew some criticism.
“I am concerned that the comments further diminish any possibilities for diplomacy,” Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said of the genocide comments.
“In addition, I am afraid that this administration, like the previous one, is misusing the term genocide – for example applying it to China’s treatment of the Uyghurs as well. It reduces the term and conflates mass murder – which is really bad – with an attempt to systematically exterminate people” .
Psaki said on Wednesday that the United States would always support peace talks and dismissed the idea that Putin would decide not to participate in peace talks “because of some words that came out of the mouth of the President of the United States.”
Farkas argued that there was no downside to Biden’s hard-line rhetoric on Putin, suggesting that the United States needed to help Ukraine defeat Russia militarily in order to end the war.
“If I were Joe Biden, I wouldn’t want to shake hands with Vladimir Putin again,” she said.
She also said Biden’s criticism of Putin could help unite allies and Americans in support of Ukraine.
In fact, Quinnipiac University vote Released Wednesday found that more than 8 in 10 Americans believe Putin is a war criminal.
The Kremlin hit back on Wednesday, calling the comment unacceptable and accusing Biden of hypocrisy.
White House officials blamed Putin for rising gas prices domestically, saying the Russian leader is to blame for the instability in oil markets and the resulting cost increase.
And the administration imposed not only sanctions on Putin, but also sanctions on those close to him. The administration announced last week that it would freeze the assets of two of Putin’s adult daughters, Maria Butina and Katerina Tikhonova.
Previous sanctions have targeted Russian oligarchs and Kremlin officials who are allies and members of Putin’s inner circle as the United States tries to directly increase pressure on him and turn public opinion against him among the Russian elite.
In another potential blow to Putin personally, Ukraine on Tuesday announced the arrest of Viktor Medvedchuk, a close ally and friend of Putin, and published a photo of him looking disheveled. Medvedchuk previously led a pro-Moscow political movement in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with whom Biden spoke on Tuesday, hailed the US declaration that the Russian attacks were “genocide,” saying it was evidence of real leadership.
White House officials have halted talk of regime change or ending the conflict by removing Putin from power, distancing himself from Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposal to assassinate Putin, and arguing Biden’s comments in Poland came from an ethical place. anger.
Instead, its focus has been on punishing Putin and making Russia a global pariah.
I don’t want an exit ramp for Vladimir Putin. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klein told NBC’s Chuck Todd this week. “Our concern is to punish Russian aggression and defend the rights of Ukrainians to have the future they deserve.”