Off the Cuff.
Citizens of Kyiv.
1. President Biden’s declaration that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” threatens to push deeply strained U.S.-Russia relations closer to collapse, former officials and analysts said, with potentially serious implications for Washington’s ability to help steer the war in Ukraine to an end and avoid a wider conflict.
The remark — an off-the-cuff coda to an address in Poland this weekend — injects a stark new element of personal animus into the standoff between the world’s biggest nuclear powers. It capped earlier statements in which Biden has gone well beyond official formulations — calling Putin a “killer,” “butcher” and “war criminal.”
Samuel Charap, a Russia expert at Rand Corp., said the administration’s attempts to walk back the suggestion of a U.S. goal of regime change would do little to alter views in Moscow because Putin has long believed the United States is out to replace him and presidential statements have traditionally been seen as official policy.
“It exacerbates existing threat perceptions regarding U.S. intentions,” he said. “They might just be much more inclined to do hostile things in response even more than they already are. That is the challenge.” (Sources: washingtonpost.com, whitehouse.gov)
Strategic thinking is not something we do in Europe. The Americans used to excel at this, but then they elected Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The US president’s inadvertent comment in Warsaw that Vladimir Putin must not remain in power marks our first diplomatic own goal in this war. The White House's denial is irrelevant. Biden is on record as saying that he seeks regime change in a country that has nuclear weapons. It is a threat Putin can construe whichever way he likes: as the ramblings of a senile president; or as a declaration of war.
Biden’s comments should serve as a wake-up call for us Europeans. Ronald Reagan, another US president who did not always stay on-message, speculated in the early phase of his presidency that a nuclear war which was geographically limited to Europe was possible. Indeed it is. We can extend that scenario further by thinking about a nuclear war limited to those European countries that do not possess their own nuclear weapons, which is all of Europe minus the UK and France; or to those parts of the EU that are not in Nato: Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta, and Sweden. Plus Switzerland, and of course Ukraine and Moldova.
From a European perspective, nothing good can come from a US president rambling about regime change in Russia because it raises the possibility of a nuclear war in Europe. There is a massive difference between a risk whose probability we safely consider to be zero, and one that has a small, but non-trivial likelihood. (Source: euorintelligence.com)
3. The Economist:
This crusade against a liberal European future is being fought in the name of Russkiy mir—“the Russian world,” a previously obscure historical term for a Slavic civilization based on shared ethnicity, religion and heritage. The Putin regime has revived, promulgated and debased this idea into an obscurantist anti-Western mixture of Orthodox dogma, nationalism, conspiracy theory and security-state Stalinism.
The war is the latest and most striking manifestation of this revanchist ideological movement. And it has brought to the fore a dark and mystical component within it, one a bit in love with death. As Andrei Kurilkin, a publisher, puts it, “The substance of the myth is less important than its sacred nature…The legitimacy of the state is now grounded not in its public good, but in a quasi-religious cult.” (Source: economist.com)