On a visit to Poland, where he met Ukrainians who had fled the fighting, Joe Biden on Saturday called Vladimir Putin a “butcher”, assessing that he “could not stay in power”. If the White House quickly clarified that the U.S. president did not call for a “regime change,” that exit clearly reflects a difference in the approach between the United States and some of its European allies toward Russia, according to geopolitical scientist Pascal Boniface. Maintenance.
While giving a speech to the “free world” in support of the Ukrainian people on Saturday, March 26, from the Polish capital Warsaw, US President Joe Biden launched a full-scale attack on “dictator” Vladimir Putin. , in the belief that the latter could not “stay in power”. Statements quickly reworded by the White House, which specified that the United States does not have a regime change strategy in Russia, but also by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who on Sunday confirmed that a regime change in Russia is not “NATO’s goal”.
Earlier Saturday, following a meeting with Ukrainian refugees, Joe Biden called the Russian leader a “butcher”, this time, prompting a reaction from French President Emmanuel Macron, who warned against the “escalation of words and actions in Ukraine “, recalling that Europe was” not at war with the Russian people “.
To decipher Joe Biden’s remarks and the reactions they provoked in Europe, France 24 spoke with Pascal Boniface, founder and director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris).
Joe Biden’s outburst about Vladimir Putin not being able to stay in power was followed by a back pedal from the White House. Is this a forgery or was it intended ?
Pascal Boniface : These remarks are in line with Joe Biden’s deep conviction, which since coming to power has sought to place human rights at the heart of his presidency, with a remarkable change in tone vis-à-vis Russia compared to the Trump era, but also vis-à-vis other autocracies, such as Saudi Arabia.
However, this exit is no less a gaff in relation to his allies and more generally the world, to confirm, as he did, that Vladimir Putin can not remain in power, referring to the failure of regime change policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States, which wants to unite democracies against Russia, can not agree with this idea. That’s why the White House was forced to do well again.
Even before the European reactions, it was obvious that such remarks were counterproductive. It’s not the first time that Joe Biden has committed this kind of blunder during public statements, it happens to him regularly when he deviates from his speeches, and it was even a big topic for his team during the presidential campaign. So yes, this sentence is a forgery that reveals his deep convictions.
I went to Europe with a clear message: we must now commit ourselves to being part of the fight for democracy in the long run. We stand with the people of Ukraine and we will continue to ensure that Russia pays a heavy price for its election war. pic.twitter.com/1gRvYnvNdr
– President Biden (@POTUS) March 27, 2022
How do the reactions from Germany and France reflect a difference in approach with the United States towards Russia? ?
Paris and Berlin are certainly in favor of a balance of power with Russia, but are well aware that maintaining dialogue with Vladimir Putin is essential in order to resolve the conflict. We may think that these countries have a less moral and more pragmatic attitude, while Joe Biden, for his part, believes that democracy is the only regime that leads a country to stability.
Of course, Europe is much closer to the United States than to authoritarian regimes like Russia or China, and it is not a matter of choosing an attitude of equilibrium, but of maintaining some form of independence from the American allies. With regard to the conflict in Ukraine, it is Emmanuel Macron’s position that calling Vladimir Putin a “butcher” or calling for his departure can only lead to hardening his position and therefore harming efforts to resolve the conflict.
In this war, is the US position towards Moscow perceived by Europe as a danger or an asset? ?
Even before the start of the conflict, the United States had adopted an offensive strategy against Russia, exposing Russian military positions and warning of the imminent invasion of Ukraine. The observation was certainly correct, but it is clear that this pressure strategy against Moscow did not prevent the war. However, the United States is not responsible for it; they did not set a trap for Russia and Vladimir Putin went into this offensive.
This war therefore has a positive impact on the image of the United States. It gives him status as a hero, the only one capable of protecting Europe and reuniting NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) around the Americans. If the context contributes to a rapprochement between the United States and Europe, some European countries such as France and Germany nevertheless fear that Joe Biden will use that context to push his advantage and accentuate the divide between democracies and regimes.
For if Washington seeks to form an anti-Beijing coalition to establish its leadership, France and Germany prefer to prevent the formation of two antagonistic blocs leading to a context of dangerous permanent hostility.