Biden Says Putin Can Stay In Power If He Leaves Ukraine

( President Joe Biden seemingly tried to give Russian President Vladimir Putin an out earlier this week when he said Putin could remain in power long-term in Russia if he just picked up and left Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Biden appeared on CNN to speak about a variety of topics. Host Jake Tapper asked the president if Putin had an available off-ramp for the war in Ukraine that started in late February, when Russia invaded its neighbor and called it a “special military operation.”

Tapper further asked whether there was a way that Russia could depart from Ukraine and not seize any territory in a way that Putin would deem to be acceptable. Biden responded:

“I don’t know what’s in his mind. Clearly, he could leave. He could just flat leave, and still probably hold his position together in Russia.”

The president continued that he saw the possibility that Putin could convince the people of Russia “that this was something that he thought made sense, but now he’s accomplished what he wanted to do, and it’s time to bring Russians home.”

The topic that Tapper brought up was in response to many people wondering whether Putin would be able to remain in power in Russia if he didn’t end the war in Ukraine without being able to claim some sort of major victory.

While Russia had believed that it would just walk into its neighboring country and do as it pleased, it has been dealt many major political setbacks, without any direct military support from other countries — at least in the form of troops.

A major recent setback was an explosion on the Crimea bridge, which connected the section of Ukraine that Russia annexed illegally to mainland Russia. It was a particularly embarrassing incident for Putin, who responded with multiple missile attacks throughout Ukraine — including on many civilian residential areas.

When it began its “special military operation” in February, Russia officially annexed four regions of Ukraine — Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk. However, it doesn’t fully control any of those regions at this point.

Biden has issued some particularly harsh commentary about Putin, saying back in March that he was a “butcher” and that he “cannot remain in power.” The White House followed that up by saying the president wasn’t calling for a change in regime in Russia, as that would’ve represented a major shift in American policy.

Not long after those comments, Julianne Smith, who serves as the U.S. permanent representative for NATO, said:

“In the moment, I think that was a principled human reaction to the stories that he had heard that day.”

Smith was referring to the fact that Biden met with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, Poland, about what they were experiencing.

She added:

“The U.S. does not have a policy of regime change in Russia. Full stop.”

And Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, said at the end of March that who serves in Russian leadership positions would be “up to the Russian people.”