Ukraine is a democracy able to make concessions for peace, while Russia is guided by an unyielding Vladimir Putin
A political gaffe, Michael Kinsley wrote, “is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say”. President Joe Biden, a self-proclaimed “gaffe machine”, did not fail to deliver at the weekend by declaring that the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, “cannot remain in power”. A Freudian slip, perhaps, from a US president who has already called Mr Putin a “butcher” and a “murderous dictator”. But regime change in Russia is not official US policy – and nor should it be, given the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons Mr Putin possesses.
The uproar caused by Mr Biden’s comment led to it being walked back by the White House. This was the mature and correct way for Washington to proceed. Mr Biden had made the unfortunate comment on the eve of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. Progress has been slow. But the US president’s statement threatened to bring negotiations to a halt. If Mr Biden’s words had not been withdrawn, Mr Putin’s worst fears – that the US wanted him gone – would be confirmed. The Russian president, who has hitherto shown no restraint, would have no reason to compromise, with everything to lose.