Joe Biden: On second thoughts, I wasn’t calling for Putin’s removal

Joe Biden is very lucky that he has an entirely undeserved reputation as a foreign affairs genius, because, let’s be honest, if his predecessor had done this, we’d currently be in the middle of a global freak out about the American President almost causing world war three:

The United States secretary of state Antony Blinken has said the US does not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else.

It comes after president Joe Biden’s three-day tour of Europe ended with comments suggesting Washington was taking a much sharper line on Russia, when he said on Saturday Russian president Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”.

Mr Biden’s improvised remarks during a speech in Warsaw were not a call for regime change in Russia, but meant Mr Putin should not be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region, a White House official said afterwards.

Biden’s comments, let’s face it, were manna from heaven for the man in the Kremlin. Putin has been trying desperately to cast his adventure in Ukraine – at least to his domestic audience – as some form of great civilisational crash between the corrupt, imperialist west, and oppressed mother Russia. The west, he argues, wants to keep Russia under its thumb, and has been funding all sorts of Nazis and other associated bad eggs in Ukraine, presenting an existential threat to Russian freedom. Now, helpfully, the American President has turned up on Russia’s borders and demanded the head of Russia’s President.

Many people have focused on the stupidity of Biden’s gaffe in the context of its effect on Putin and the immediate term. Fewer people, however, have focused on the real problem with what he said: Imagine for a moment that there is some kind of coup in Moscow, in protest at the War in Ukraine. What Biden has done is to almost guarantee that whoever replaces Putin will be at least suspected of being an American Puppet, and will have to make some big show of independence from the west. A few Novichok gas assassinations on American soil might do that, for example.

For some reason, this point hasn’t gotten much play. You can be absolutely sure that this would not be the case had the words “cannot remain in power” come from the lips of the last American President, which tells us a little about the media’s double standards here.

Biden, increasingly, and obviously, is not up to the job for which he was elected. He looks old, and frail, and more than a little bit doddery. Three times on this trip to Europe alone his staff have had to clean up mistakes he made: First, telling American troops what they would see “when” they arrived in Ukraine, which sounded very much like he was about to send them. Second, he said that the USA would respond “in kind” to any Russian chemical weapons use, which sounded very much like that the USA might gas innocent Russian civilians. That had to be cleared up, too. Now this.

One might venture the possibility that it is less than ideal that, at a moment of grave tensions between two major nuclear powers, the leader of the United States is so prone to saying things that have to be immediately corrected. At least when Ronald Reagan – the last President whose senility was often speculated upon – joked that “the bombing begins in five minutes”, the tape wasn’t live.

With his domestic approval rating now in the 30s, it’s probably more likely than not that Biden won’t even bother seeking re-election. But the problem, of course, is that he might have no choice.

After all, as doddery as he is, he still occasionally makes sense. Which is more than can be said for his once-vaunted number two. Kamala Harris, these days, is one of those people you don’t hear very much about from Irish progressives. They seem to prefer to forget that they ever cheered her on at all. So it goes, with the passage of time:

 

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