A few days ago Mr Biden stated, at the end of a speech in Warsaw, that Putin ‘cannot remain in power.’ The statement set off a flurry of commentary, some of which held that he was calling for regime change in Russia. The White House promptly clarified that was not the case.
The Kremlin dismissed the statement.
Mr Biden has called Putin a war criminal. I believe he may have said, also, that the man was a murderer.
Mr Macron, France’s president, quickly put in that saying those things interfered with diplomacy.
But I don’t think so.
All those things Mr Biden has said are true. Putin has targeted residential buildings, schools, theaters, hospitals, people in the streets, women, children. If that doesn’t make him a war criminal, then what does?
He has unleashed his cruelty without provocation. In his defense, he’s told us that he and his beloved Russia are being threatened by Ukraine. Not threatened with weapons but by their desire to emancipate.
It doesn’t take much to threaten Putin. A country next door willing to exercise its right to sovereignty and lean to the West was too much of a provocation. For Putin to sleep well at night, Ukraine needed to continue to live under the shadow of Russia. Under his boot.
But Ukrainians had enough of it and they mounted a fierce resistance that has unified the West. From now on, in our hearts and minds, Ukraine is part of the West.
What troubles Putin is that the rebellious nation is so close to Moscow. And their show of defiance is likely contagious. Other territories under his boot, may want to go their own way.
And so he felt a need to be cruel. To set an example. To oppress. To squash other human beings into submission. The more blood the better.
Mr Biden had finished speaking with refugees from Ukraine when he made his speech in Warsaw. He was obviously moved by their pain, he told us himself. And so he responded, acknowledging their suffering.
Putin, on the other hand, carries on as if it was just another day.
But something is brewing under the surface. He knows his status in the world has been seriously diminished. Young Russians are leaving their land. Slowly, his authority is eroding, and it is doing so because of his inhumanity.
We’re all vulnerable to slide into acts of cruelty. More so if we choose to isolate ourselves. Which is what Putin has done. He’s a one man show in Russia. Everybody else must dance to his tune. Alexei Navalny, a prominent dissenter is now in jail for pointing out Putin’s flaws and just got his sentence extended. Opposition organizations are labelled terrorists and barred from civil discourse.
By contrast, Mr Biden is open to criticism. He may sometimes not like the criticism he gets but he knows he has to work with it. The laws of this country require that he do so. I believe he is open to feedback from his team, a team which quickly came to his aid when he said Putin ‘cannot remain in power.’ No, his team added, the President was not calling for regime change in Russia. And yet, we all knew, that in his heart, that’s exactly what he was doing.
We all understand that it is up to the Russians to depose Putin. But the rest of us, every single one of us, also have a right to join in with Mr Biden and say that he ‘cannot remain in power.’ We have such right because the images of the pain and suffering inflicted by Putin are clear to all of us.
And there may be more to come. In his desperation to push his boot onto the throats of Ukrainians, Putin may wish to use chemical or tactical nuclear weapons so he can finally overcome the courageous people fighting for their right to choose their own destiny.
Perhaps Mr Biden’s views of Putin will damage negotiations for an end to the war.
I don’t think so.
And if the two men were ever to meet again, I believe Mr Biden would sit across him and discuss whatever needed to be discussed. And if Putin were to ask, ‘do you think I’m a war criminal?’, Mr Biden would answer, ‘Yes, I do. You are a war criminal. A murderer. It is a matter of record. The whole world knows it. Now, let’s talk about what we have to talk.’
Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts