Peace talks underway today despite Biden’s cold war rant
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

With diplomacy seen around the world as the only way to stop the death and destruction in the war, Ukraine and Russia are meeting in Turkey for the first time in two weeks today with U.S. allies telling Washington to put the kibosh, at least for now, on President Biden’s cold war ranting.

Even as both sides announced issues on which they were willing to compromise yesterday, Biden doubled down on the cold war rant he delivered Sunday in Warsaw, the capital of Poland.

“I make no apologies,” Biden declared yesterday as he defended his Sunday remarks widely interpreted around the world as a call for regime change in Russia. Standing before a crowd in front of a castle in Warsaw Sunday, Biden invoked the Deity as he passionately cried out, “for God’s sake this man (Putin) must not remain in power.”

Seemingly making matters worse and rejecting protests coming from around the world, he said yesterday, “I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel and I make no apologies for it.”

Sober-minded forces here in the U.S. and around the world expressed shock and concern for both the long-term implications of Biden’s rant regarding the potential repair of future relations with Russia but also worry that he could derail the peace talks underway today. Both Ukraine and Russia were announcing potential areas of agreement yesterday and rather than supporting those moves Biden defended what almost everyone saw as a call for regime change in Moscow.

The Russians for their part said they are scaling back operations around Kiev to show support for the peace talks and hinted that they were willing to give up demands for the protection of the Russian language in Ukraine. (Ukraine has removed Russian as an official language in the country and has made it illegal to use that language in many areas, including education and commerce, despite the fact that it is the language of 40 percent of the population.)

For its part Ukraine says it will accept “neutrality” in exchange for security guarantees, it will accept the status quo of Russian control of Crimea, and that it is willing to negotiate regarding the status of the breakaway republics in the East.

Even as Ukraine was indicating its willingness to negotiate on some major issues, media in the U.S. are arguing vociferously that Ukraine should never consider any territorial concessions. “Fight until almost all of you are dead,” is the attitude such voices seem to have. A destroyed Ukraine is a price many Western capitalists are willing to pay in their fight to destroy Russia and the capitalists in control there. Unfortunately, they get support from forces in Ukraine, including neo-fascists there, who threaten to sabotage any agreement President Zelensky makes that they deem to be too much of a compromise.

It was not just the call for regime change that was problematic in Biden’s cold war rant on Sunday. Against all evidence, he tried to sell the idea that NATO has never been a threat to Russia.

He ignored the fact that the destruction of Russia, the Soviet Union, and the entire socialist system that existed in Europe after World War II was the very reason for the formation of NATO. He ignored the fact that NATO has nuclear missiles and nuclear capable planes and missiles in several countries right on the Russian border and that they were able to place them there after the U.S. violated promises it made at the end of the Cold War that NATO would never expand eastward.

The French leader, Emmanuel Macron, and the government of the United Kingdom wasted no time immediately distancing themselves from Biden’s call for regime change and his claim that the U.S. does not support overthrowing foreign leaders.

The list is long of regime after regime all around the world that the U.S. has overthrown since the end of World War II and before. Regimes in place now in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and even the Ukraine itself are the products of regime change carried out by or endorsed by the U.S. In some cases, like in Chile and Libya, the U.S.-orchestrated regime change involved the outright assassination of foreign leaders. Biden’s call for ousting Putin was particularly stunning because he has been accusing Putin of wanting to remove Zelensky from the presidency in Ukraine.

Speech was hypocritical

Biden’s speech was hypocritical too because he insisted the U.S. was supporting and leading a worldwide fight for “democracy against autocracy.” The speech was given in Warsaw, the capital of a country that has rapidly slid into autocracy and fascism itself. Poland has denied half its citizens, women, even the most basic rights of healthcare and freedom of choice. (The GOP in the U.S. is following the Polish example in states where they are in control.)

Poland has curbed the rights of any religious groups except for the Roman Catholic Church and it has outlawed any expressions of LGBTQ rights. Union organizers are frequently harassed and jailed and immigrants suffer prejudice and extreme attacks.

The Roma people are particularly victimized with a blind eye turned toward anyone who violates their rights or takes or damages their property. Middle Eastern immigrants recently trying to gain entry into the country were left to freeze to death in forests on Poland’s eastern borders. Even as Biden spoke, Polish border guards continue to harass, beat, and bar non-white Ukrainian immigrants trying to get into the country. Yet Biden praised the Polish government as a “partner” in the world struggle for democracy against autocracy.

Even the EU has talked of penalizing if not expelling Poland because of violation of human rights in that country.

Some diplomats, in an attempt to excuse Biden’s almost hysterical rant, have suggested the president’s call for regime change resulted from an emotional reaction he had from meeting with Ukrainian refugees. Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, cited Biden’s meetings with refugees at a Warsaw stadium hours before his address.

“In the moment, I think that was a principled human reaction to the stories that he had heard that day,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” If anything, those meetings should have impressed on Biden the importance of his role as a negotiator and supporter of diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict.

In any case, the president’s determination to ratchet up his attacks on Putin surfaced again earlier Saturday when Biden called Putin “a butcher.”

Biden’s remarks fit well into a mindset that regrets a changing world where the planet, led for so long by the United States, is evolving into a multi-polar world that U.S capitalists do not want.

The Kremlin didn’t really have to say too much about Biden’s attacks other than allowing them to sink in and elicit the many negative comments that came from even U.S. allies.

“We shouldn’t escalate, with words or actions,” Macron, who has been a conduit to Putin, said on French television. U.K. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, the cabinet member appearing on this week’s British morning shows, said Putin’s future should be “up to the Russian people.”

Biden has damage to repair after his comments “made a difficult situation more difficult and a dangerous situation more dangerous,” Richard Haass, president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, said on Twitter.

U.S. General David Petraeus, a former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan who headed the Central Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama, said Biden’s comment “could complicate matters down the road.”

“It reminds us that message discipline has its virtues,” Petraeus said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Groping for an explanation, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Biden really meant “that President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine, or anywhere else.”

Meanwhile, sober-minded leaders around the world are hoping for progress in the negotiations taking place today. An end to the warand world peacewould be welcomed around the world.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.