President Biden is increasing pressure on Vladimir Putin, targeting the Russian leader, his family and his inner circle with words and deeds.
The Biden administration has allowed Putin, his daughters and his personal friends and high-ranking aides in an attempt to pressure the Russian leader over his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden stepped up his rhetoric with Putin, called him a war criminal, said he could not stay in power and most recently described his actions on Tuesday as genocide.
The harsh rhetoric included some unwritten moments – such as Biden’s arguing for an end to Putin’s power in Russia during a speech in Warsaw, Poland. The White House was soon forced to withdraw those comments, and Biden, who returned to US soil a few days later, said he was not pushing for a change in US policy.
Most recently, harsh talk has again raised eyebrows abroad – and some indirect criticism.
In an interview with France 2, French President Emmanuel Macron refused to use the term “genocide” when referring to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“I want to continue to try my best to stop this war and rebuild peace. I’m not sure that the increase in rhetoric will help that cause,” Macron said.
Biden has shown little sign of concern over any of his harsh comments, which critics beyond Macron have sometimes criticized as likely to ignore Putin.
During a speech in Iowa on Tuesday, Biden lamented that “a dictator declares war and commits genocide halfway through the world” so that Americans do not feel beaten in their pockets.
This is the first time Biden or any US official has publicly described Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting atrocities as genocide.
Biden later clarified that the comment was not tongue-in-cheek and was not a reflection of his anger at Putin’s actions.
White House spokeswoman Jen Zhaki said at Wednesday’s conference that Biden would allow legal action to be taken around the possible genocide drama, but that his comments were based on growing reports and intelligence about what was happening in Ukraine.
Psaki pointed out in a United Nations report that the atrocities reported in Pucha, the bombing of a train station in Mariupol, had killed dozens of civilians and that at least 4,450 civilians had been killed since Russia began its invasion in mid-February.
“From the beginning, we have seen the Kremlin’s rhetoric and the Russian media deny the identity of the Ukrainian people,” Psaki said. “Therefore, the President has spoken with the things we all see, and it is clear what he thinks in terms of the atrocities that take place on the ground.”
Evelyn Ferguson, the top security official in Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia during the Obama administration, said Biden could receive more information from Ukraine and US intelligence.
“The president has every right to use his speech to make assessments that he considers politically and geopolitically accurate,” he said.
But Biden’s rhetoric has provoked some criticism.
“I’m worried that these comments will further diminish the chances of diplomacy,” said Michael O’Honlen, a senior colleague at the Brookings Institution, who commented on the genocidal comments.
“Furthermore, I fear that this administration, as in the past, will misuse the word genocide – in the same way that China treats Uyghurs. It’s cheapening the word and confusing mass killings – already bad enough – with an attempt to systematically exterminate a population, “he said.
On Wednesday, Psaki said that the United States would always support peace talks, but rejected the notion that Putin would decide against participating in the peace talks “with just a few words from the mouth of the US president.”
Ferguson argued that there was no backlash against Biden’s harsh rhetoric on Putin, noting that the United States should help Ukraine defeat Russia militarily to end the war.
“If I were Joe Biden, I would never want to shake Vladimir Putin’s hand again,” he said.
He added that Biden’s criticism of Putin would help unite allies and Americans in support of Ukraine.
In fact, more than 8 in 10 Americans believe Putin is a war criminal, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
The Kremlin fired again on Wednesday, accusing the comment of being unacceptable and Biden hypocrisy.
White House officials have blamed Putin for the rise in domestic gas prices, arguing that the Russian leader is responsible for the volatility in oil markets and the resulting cost overruns.
The administration has given permission not only to Putin but also to those close to him. The administration announced last week that it would freeze the assets of Putin’s two adult daughters, Maria Mint and Katrina Dikonova.
Earlier sanctions targeted Russian oligarchy and Kremlin officials
In another possible blow to Putin personally, Ukraine on Tuesday announced the capture of Putin’s close ally and friend Victor Medvedev, and released a photo of him in a state of shock. Medvedchuk previously led the pro-Moscow political movement in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in Biden on Tuesday, praised the US declaration of the Russian attacks as “genocide”, saying it was evidence of genuine leadership.
White House officials have shrugged off talk of ending a regime change or conflict by removing Putin from power. Lindsay Graham (RS.C.) has distanced himself from the suggestion that Putin should be assassinated, arguing that Biden’s comments in Poland came from a moral point of view. Anger.
Instead, its focus is on punishing Putin and making Russia a global giant.
“I do not want a way out for Vladimir Putin. I do not think this is our concern, “said Ron Klein, chief executive of the White House. “Our concern is to punish the Russian occupation and protect the rights of the Ukrainians to their future.”