U.S. has no strategy of regime change in Russia, Blinken says

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and Israel's Foreign Minister Lapid attend a news conference in Jerusalem
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference with Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, March 27, 2022. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

JERUSALEM, March 27 (Reuters) - The United States has no strategy of regime change for Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Sunday after President Joe Biden a day earlier said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power".

"I think the President, the White House made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else," Blinken said at a press conference during a visit to Jerusalem.

"As you know, and as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter. In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people," Blinken said.

In a major speech during his trip to Poland, U.S. President Joe Biden said that Russia's leader Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power", remarks a White House official said later were meant to prepare the world's democracies for extended conflict over Ukraine, not back regime change in Russia.

Those comments by Biden, including a statement earlier in the day calling Putin a "butcher," were a sharp escalation of the U.S. approach to Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

In an address delivered at Warsaw's Royal Castle. Biden evoked Poland's four decades behind the Iron Curtain in an effort to build a case that the world's democracies must urgently confront an autocratic Russia as a threat to global security and freedom.

A White House official said Biden's remark that Putin cannot remain in power did not represent a shift in the position of Washington, which has avoided direct military involvement in Ukraine and has specifically said it does not back regime change.

"But what we do have is a strategy to strongly support Ukraine," Blinken said. "We have a strategy to put unprecedented pressure on Russia, and we’re carrying that forward. And we have a strategy to make sure that we’re providing all of the humanitarian support that we can, and we have a strategy to reinforce NATO," he added.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Dan Williams, Editing by William Maclean

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Humeyra Pamuk is a senior foreign policy correspondent based in Washington DC. She covers the U.S. State Department, regularly traveling with U.S. Secretary of State. During her 20 years with Reuters, she has had postings in London, Dubai, Cairo and Turkey, covering everything from the Arab Spring and Syria's civil war to numerous Turkish elections and the Kurdish insurgency in the southeast. In 2017, she was won the Knight-Bagehot fellowship program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. She holds a BA in International Relations and an MA on European Union studies.