President Biden delivered a speech in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday evening wrapping up his four-day trip to Europe with what was widely interpreted as a shocking call for regime change in Russia.
In the speech, Biden promised that the United States will accept thousands of Ukrainian refugees, reiterated that American troops will not be sent to fight in Ukraine, and touted his plan to help Europe "end its dependence on Russian fossil fuels."
Biden previously announced this "game plan," which includes allocating more American natural gas to the European market and accelerating Europe's transition to clean energy sources, in Brussels on Friday.
He then addressed the Russian people, accusing Putin of increasing the resolve of the Western democracies and causing a "brain drain" in Russia.
"You, the Russian people, are not our enemy," Biden said, reciting a catalog of the atrocities Russian forces have committed in Ukraine. "These are not the actions of a great nation ... Vladimir Putin's aggression has cut you, the Russian people, off from the rest of the world. He's taking Russia back to the 19th century. This is not who you are ... This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people."
Biden ended his speech with an apparently clear call for Putin to be deposed. "A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people's love for liberty," he said. "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power."
The Biden administration has previously been wary of calls for regime change in Russia. When Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) called earlier this month for a Russian "Brutus" to assassinate Putin, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said his comments did not reflect "the position of the United States government," NPR reported. A few days later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that American opposition to the invasion of Ukraine is "not about regime change" in Russia.
Update 7:15 p.m.: A statement from the White House after Biden's Saturday remarks said Biden was not calling Putin's ouster: "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."