White House walks back multiple Biden remarks during Europe trip on Putin, chemical weapons, troops

Biden says Putin ‘cannot remain in power’ as he assures Ukraine: ‘We stand with you’

President Biden delivered a speech Saturday in Poland where he said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power."

The White House has been forced to walk back or clarify multiple remarks made by President Biden during his trip to Europe — including having to clarify on Saturday that the president was not calling for regime change in Moscow.

Regime change?

On Saturday, Biden appeared to call for regime change in Russia, declaring that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said during the speech in front of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland.

President Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

It appeared to mark a sharp contrast from prior statements from the White House, which has emphasized that regime change in Russia is not the policy of the United States.

“For us, it’s not about regime change. The Russian people have to decide who they want to lead them,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month on CBS News. In addition, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this month: “We are not advocating for killing the leader of a foreign country or regime change. That is not the policy of the United States.”

Shortly after Biden’s address however, the White House denied that Biden was calling for regime change.

“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,” a White House official told Fox News Digital shortly after the speech concluded.

But it was the latest clarification in a matter of days.

Troops to Ukraine

On Friday, Biden was speaking to U.S. troops in Poland, and he said that Ukrainian people “have a lot of backbone” before appearing to suggest that the troops would soon be in Ukraine itself — something U.S. officials have repeatedly ruled out.

“And you’re going to see when you’re there,” he told the 82nd Airborne Division. And some of you have been there. You’re going to see — you’re going to see women, young people standing — standing… in front of a damn tank, just saying, “I’m not leaving. I’m holding my ground.”  They’re incredible.  But they take a lot of inspiration from us.”

A White House spokesperson later clarified that remark: “The President has been clear we are not sending U.S. troops to Ukraine and there is no change in that position.”

‘In kind’ response to chemical weapons

On Thursday, Biden was asked if the U.S. would respond if Russia were to use chemical weapons as part of its invasion of Ukraine. Biden said that such a move by the Russians would “trigger a response in kind.”

After that remark, it was up to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to clarify. Sullivan was asked what Biden meant by “in kind.”

Sullivan said that meant “we’ll respond accordingly” and that Russia would pay a “severe price.”

“We will collect the form and nature of our response based on the nature of the action Russia takes,” Sullivan said. “And we’ll do so in coordination with our allies.”

“And I won’t go beyond that other than to say the United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period, under any circumstances,” Sullivan maintained.

Pressed further, Sullivan responded saying: “I will just say, with respect to any use of weapons of mass destruction — nuclear, chemical, biological — Russia would pay a severe price.”

Sullivan maintained that Biden administration officials have discussed this matter with allies and partners and have done “contingency planning within our own government.”

“We have communicated directly to the Russians, and I’m not going to speak further to it here,” he said.

Fox News’ Pat Ward, Marisa Schultz and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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