The remark sparked outrage since it meant that the US had made a significant shift in policy about Russia’s future.
Both Biden’s Republican Party opponents and US foreign policy experts slammed the remarks.
“I think the president, the White House, made the point last night [Saturday] that, quite simply, president Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else,” he said.
The US permanent representative to NATO sought to clarify any idea that Biden wanted Putin to be removed as Russia’s leader, on Sunday.
“The US does not have a policy of regime change in Russia. Full stop,” Julianne Smith stated on CNN’s State of the Union. Ms Smith described the president’s remarks as “a principled human reaction” in the moment to stories he heard on Saturday in talks with Ukrainian refugees displaced by the Russian invasion.
She stated that Biden’s words aimed to emphasise that the international community could not empower Putin to wage war in Ukraine or commit more acts of aggression in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of the country.
Senator James Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Biden’s remarks a “horrendous gaffe.” He expressed regret that the president did not confine his statements to his official script on Ukraine, which he commended.
“Most people who don’t deal in the lane of foreign relations don’t realise those nine words that he uttered would cause the kind of eruption that they did,” he told CNN. “It’s going to cause a huge problem.”
Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar told ABC that the US would “give all the aid we can to Ukraine,” but would not send soldiers there. She stated that the policy was not aimed at changing the regime in Moscow.
The veteran American diplomat and head of the US Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, said Biden’s remarks were unhelpful and detrimental. He described them as a “bad lapse in discipline that runs the risk of extending the scope and duration of the war.”
In tweets, he stated that the president’s remarks “made a difficult situation more difficult and a dangerous situation more dangerous.”
“That is obvious. Less obvious is how to undo the damage, but I suggest his chief aides reach their counterparts & make clear the US is prepared to deal with this Russian government.”
“As has been said, you can only go to war with the army you have. No less true is you can only end a war with the adversary you have. That Putin’s Russia has acted criminally does not alter this truth. Regime change may be a hope but it cannot constitute the basis of our strategy,” he said.