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Biden delivering speech in Warsaw

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks outside the Royal Castle about the Russian war in Ukraine March 26, 2022, in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images)

Suggesting Kremlin Regime Change, Biden Says Putin 'Cannot Remain in Power'

The remarks, though later walked back by the White House, are the most explicit yet from the U.S. president that he sees no future for Putin as Russia's head of state.

Jon Queally

Bucking those who warn that a push for regime change in Moscow could prolong the war in Ukraine and intensify the suffering of its people, U.S. President Joe Biden appeared to openly call for the overthrow of Russian Vladimir Putin on Saturday during a speech in Warsaw, Poland.

"Whenever the United States tried regime change, it didn't turn out very well."

While applauding the international unity that has mobilized to condemn and push back against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a war now entering its second month, Biden suggested it has now become intolerable for Putin to remain.

Near the very end of his speech, Biden declared, "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power."

The remarks were the most explicit yet from the U.S. president that he sees no future for Putin as Russia's head of state, but the comment also raised immediate alarm bells among those who recognized that such rhetoric could make it harder to a negotiated peace settlement to take hold or for the diplomatic strategy known as the "Golden Bridge" which would allow for a dignified exit from hostilities.

In a Democracy Now! interview that aired Friday, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis explained why Putin must be given a viable exit strategy—not because he isn't a contemptible war criminal, which Varoufakis readily admitted—but because it would be the fastest way to end the invasion and mass slaughter of innocent Ukrainian civilians.

According to Varoufakis, and others who share his concerns, the idea of a western-imposed regime change strategy aimed at the Kremlin could "be catastrophic for the people of Ukraine."

"What is exactly the aim?" asks Varoufakis during the exchange. "Is it regime change in Russia? Well, whenever the United States tried regime change, it didn't turn out very well, and has never been tried with a nuclear power. This is like playing with fire, or nuclear fire, I should say. If it's not regime change, what exactly is it?"

In his assessment, Varoufakis said that if Biden and his NATO allies are "not leaving any room for a compromise" with Putin, then they are "effectively jeopardizing the interests of Ukrainians, because a quagmire in—an Afghanistan-like quagmire in the Ukraine is not exactly in the interests of any Ukrainian I know of."

"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," said the official.

Following the walk back, Varoufakis responded on Sunday morning by saying the need for such a clarification is itself a worrying sign.

"A U.S. 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," said Varoufakis, "is a clear and present danger to all."

Update: This piece was updated to include news comments from Varoufakis.

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