“I’m not walking anything back,” the president said..
“I was expressing moral outrage, and I make no apologies,” he added.
Speaking in Poland at the end of his four-day trip to Europe on Sunday, Biden said of Putin, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
The line came at the end of a 27-minute speech and was ad-libbed by a president famous for doing so.
Biden’s prepared remarks in the State Dining Room, his first public appearance since the speech in Warsaw Saturday, were about his budget proposal he is sending lawmakers for the fiscal year that starts in October, but most of the questions from the two dozen reporters assembled before him were about his ad-libbed comment.
White House officials on Saturday almost immediately afterward sent out a clarification that the sentence did not reflect a change in U.S. policy, and that Biden was not advocating “regime change” in Russia: “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
Biden, though, on Monday insisted that and similar explanations did not constitute a “walk back,” and that he was reacting as anyone would after meeting with the victims of Putin’s assault on civilians, including children, in Ukraine.
“This is just stating a simple fact that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable. Totally unacceptable,” he said.
“I wasn’t articulating a policy change,” he added. “I think that he continues on this course that he is on, he is going to become a pariah worldwide, and who knows what he becomes at home, in terms of support.”
Biden said he had no interest in escalating a conflict with a nuclear armed power, but was expressing a view shared by many. “People like this shouldn’t be ruling countries, but they do,” he said.
He also said he was not at all worried that what he said would escalate the conflict or weaken NATO.
“NATO has never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been as strong as it is today,” he said. “Never.”