Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, imploring the American government to help his country and exposing Russian atrocities committed against his people.
The world has witnessed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s slaughtering of innocent Ukrainians in his desire to exert Moscow’s control over Eastern Europe and regain some of the lost “glory” of the former U.S.S.R.
Shortly after Zelenskyy’s speech, a reporter asked President Joe Biden whether Putin is a war criminal.
Biden initially replied, “No.” Then, after wandering off, he went back to the reporter and offered the opposite take.
After asking the reporter for clarification about whether she was asking if he would call Putin a war criminal, the president said, “Oh, I think he is a war criminal.”
Naturally, the Kremlin was more than a little put off by Biden’s declaration. The government’s spokesman called the remarks “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric,” MSN reported, citing Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.
So, why did Biden say what he did about Putin?
Was it because of info shared in the presidential daily briefings, as HotAir’s Ed Morrissey asked? Was it because of secret intel Biden has been privy to? Was it because of powerful Pentagon surveillance footage?
According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, it was because of what Biden saw on TV — just like everybody else.
A reporter pressed Psaki about the president’s seemingly premature decision to label Putin “war criminal,” which is a significant designation.
“The Russian actions in Ukraine are under close scrutiny for potential war crimes, but today President Biden directly labeled Putin today a ‘war criminal.’ Has something changed in the administration’s assessment?” the reporter asked. “What brought this new remark from the president?”
Psaki replied, “The president’s remarks speak for themselves. He was speaking from his heart and speaking from what he’s seen on television — which is barbaric actions by a brutal dictator.”
Another reporter later noted, “This war has now been going on three weeks. So far, the president has declined to use this label. As you note, there is an ongoing sort of formal process before you can use this term. So, something must have changed for the president to feel like he could take this additional step today.”
Psaki answered, “The president was answering a direct question that was asked and responding to what he has seen on television. We have all seen it. Barbaric acts, horrific acts by a foreign dictator in a country that is threatening and taking the lives of civilians, impacting hospitals, women who are pregnant, journalists — others.”
What caused this walk back? Morrissey has a theory: Biden doesn’t want to tick off Russia when he needs them to get back into the Iran nuclear deal.
Moreover, with Biden having established that designation after fumbling it initially, this official walk-back at the White House of it being just Biden’s personal view looks like a retreat in the face of Russian complaints. And that might be precisely what it is, because Biden’s still relying on Russia to accommodate Biden’s desperate ambition to re-enter the Iran deal. Biden has put regional and American security into Putin’s hands in regard to a renegotiated JCPOA while calling him a “war criminal,” and at the same time warning that Putin might use WMDs in Ukraine such as chemical weapons and tactical nukes.
Rather than recognize the insanity of that foreign policy, Biden and his White House have decided that it makes more sense to accommodate Putin and walk back the obvious. That may be many things, but leadership it ain’t.