Published Mach 28, 2022
Far too many people are casting President Biden’s gaffe this weekend in which he apparently called for President Vladimir Putin’s removal from power as a forgivable mistake. It’s not. It’s part of a disturbing pattern of miscues that unnecessarily raise the risk of a direct confrontation with Russia.
This is by no means Biden’s first verbal blunder with respect to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In January, he implied a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine might not trigger Western sanctions. More recently, he appeared to surprise his own administration by labeling Putin a “war criminal.” He also told members of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division in Poland that they would witness the bravery of Ukrainians “when you’re there,” seeming to imply that U.S. troops would enter the fighting. He also said NATO would respond “in kind” if Russia used weapons of mass destruction in its war with Ukraine, appearing to suggest that the alliance would use tactical nuclear or chemical weapons in response if Putin did so first. The White House had to clarify that Biden had no intention of sending troops to Ukraine, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the president meant that “we’ll respond accordingly.”
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.