President Joe Biden’s long history of off-the-cuff gaffes has finally caught up with him. While media outlets have tended to brush off the repeated challenges, insults, and general nonsensical phrases that have plagued Biden’s political career, his latest series of verbal blunders may be the catalyst for cutting the United States out of international diplomacy measures.
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, during his European jaunt. A throwaway line, perhaps, but one that sparked international ramifications and an end to the global unity project which the president’s staff assured America he was leading. The DC spin machine was quick to react. Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained that the president merely meant “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region.”
While the US and Europe previously attempted to present an image of consensus in the face of Russian aggression, international leaders have now sought to distance themselves from both President Biden and his remarks with regard to the Ukraine conflict. After Biden called Putin a “butcher,” French President Emmanuel Macron said, “I wouldn’t use terms like that because I’m still in talks with President Putin,” signifying that this moniker would be harmful to further diplomatic efforts.
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, insisted the removal of Putin was “not the objective of NATO, nor that of the US president.” When a foreign leader has to backtrack on behalf of a counterpart, it spells serious issues with the supposedly unified front.
It now seems likely that any efforts to show joint solidarity will only include President Biden in a limited capacity. It is often cited that the first rule of diplomacy is to be “devoid of the crusading spirit.” Biden appears to forget that he is supposed to be leading a charge toward peace rather than campaigning for his domestic legacy.
Putin’s Propaganda Win
Short of launching a deadly escalation against Russian forces, it is widely considered by experts and strategists that the best way to neutralize Putin’s aggression is for the Russian citizenry to stop backing their leader. The former Soviet nation has always been a deft hand at propaganda. Putin has strengthened his power by utilizing narratives aimed at denigrating the West for its imperialistic nation-building. When Joe Biden openly talks about regime change – whether a slip of the tongue or otherwise – he creates perfect soundbites with which Putin can rally his domestic audience and “prove” that he was right all along.
Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman made this exact point on NBC’s Meet the Press. He said:
“First, I think all of us believe the world would be a better place without Vladimir Putin. But second, that’s not the official US policy. And by saying that, that regime change is our strategy, effectively, it plays into the hands of the Russian propagandists and plays into the hands of Vladimir Putin.”
Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine more than a month ago, the consistent message from the governments of NATO, the EU, and the US has been that these allies are unified in their approach and committed to the same cause. With his series of ill-timed and inappropriate comments, Joe Biden has destroyed that unity.
Whether Biden’s actions have the potential to prolong the conflict or derail the peace talks presently taking place is something historians will no doubt be debating for many years to come. But for those who have paid any attention to the president’s long career of fumbles, gaffes, and insults, it is hardly surprising that his temper would get the better of him at a time of crisis.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.