U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday he is worried that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not have a way out of the Ukraine war, and Biden said he was trying to figure out what to do about that.
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Biden said Putin is a very calculating man and the problem he worries about now is that the Russian leader “doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that.”
As far as I can tell, Biden has done a very good job navigating this terrible crisis, but he did err in calling Putin a war criminal and saying he cannot remain in power. Putin is a war criminal, but he can and quite likely will remain in power.
It’s largely up to Russia and Ukraine to end the war, to decide what kind of peace to accept and what kind of stories they are willing to tell to end the war. If Putin wants to claim that the war was a defensive action and Ukraine agrees to some kind of security assurances for Russia to help validate this story, well, why not? For his part, Biden needs to prepare Americans to live with Putin for a few more years, because that is likely the cost of a non-catastrophic outcome.
And ultimately our goal should be to nudge Russia onto a less authoritarian trajectory. It seems to me that this will require assuring Russia that we want it to rejoin the international community and have no designs on its territory. The allure of totalitarianism will remain strong as long as Russia feels under threat. But this is way over my pay grade.