Biden says Putin ‘totally miscalculated’ by invading Ukraine but is a big ‘rational actor’

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Biden says Putin ‘totally miscalculated’ by invading Ukraine but is a big ‘rational actor’

In an exclusive interview with CNN on Tuesday, President Biden said that he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “rational actor” who, despite this, greatly overestimated his ability to invade Ukraine and oppress its people.

“I think he is a rational actor who has made a big mistake,” Biden told Jake Tapper as Russian attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine marked another turning point in the months-long war.

As the fighting in Ukraine nears its eighth month, the interview with Biden gave new insight into what he was thinking as top US officials watched the fighting in Ukraine with growing concern.

Last week, Biden said that the risk of “nuclear Armageddon” was at its highest level in 60 years. In the interview, he said that threats from Russia could lead to catastrophic “mistakes” and “miscalculations,” but he wouldn’t say how the US would react if Putin put a tactical nuclear device on the battlefield in Ukraine.

And he said there would be “consequences” for Saudi Arabia after it worked with Moscow to announce a cut in oil production. This could cause gas prices to rise as the midterm elections in November get closer. Biden, his top staff, and other Western leaders have spent the past few months talking about what steps Putin might take as his troops lose embarrassingly on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Leaders have been debating a lot about whether or not Putin is acting in a logical way as they try to figure out what he will do next. Biden said on Tuesday that he thought Putin was reasonable, but he called the Russian leader’s goals in Ukraine, which he laid out in an angry speech when he started the war in February, “ridiculous.”

“Listen to what he says. If you listen to the speech he gave after that decision was made, he talked about how he was needed to be the leader of Russia who brought together all Russian speakers. I mean, I just think it’s irrational,” Biden said.

Biden went on to say that Putin was wrong to think that Ukrainians would not fight back against a Russian invasion. He said that this mistake was shown by the fierce resistance inside the country.

“I think the speech and his goals were not logical. “I think he thought, Jake, that he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kyiv and that’s where he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just completely miscalculated,” Biden said.

In fact, a counteroffensive started by Ukraine last month was successful in taking back territory that the Russians had held before, including important transportation hubs. The losses were the latest big embarrassment for Russia, whose military has been struggling throughout the seven-month war. This week, however, Russia started one of its toughest bombing campaigns since it invaded in late February. At least 19 people have been killed and more than 100 have been hurt across the country. This includes the western city of Lviv, which is hundreds of miles away from the main battlegrounds in eastern and southern Ukraine.

When asked if he would meet Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia next month, Biden said that he didn’t see a good reason for a meeting.

“It would depend on exactly what he wanted to talk about,” Biden said, adding that if Putin wanted to talk about the American basketball player Brittney Griner who is in jail, he would be open to talking.

“But look, he has acted brutally, he has acted brutally,” Biden said. “I think he committed war crimes. And so, I don’t see any reason to meet with him now.” Last week, Biden said that the risk of a nuclear “Armageddon” was at its highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis. He told Tapper that he didn’t think Putin would actually take that step.

Nuclear “mistakes” or “miscalculations”
Tapper asked Biden if he thought the Russian leader would use a tactical nuclear weapon. “I don’t think he will,” Biden said. This is a possibility that US officials have been watching with concern as Russian troops suffer embarrassing losses on the battlefield.

“I think it’s irresponsible for him to talk about it, the idea that a world leader of one of the biggest nuclear powers in the world says he might use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine,” Biden said.

Biden said that even Putin’s threats have a destabilising effect, and he warned of the possible mistakes in judgement that could follow.

“The whole point I was making was that it could lead to a horrible outcome,” he told Tapper. “And it’s not because anyone wants it to turn into a world war or anything, but once you use a nuclear weapon, mistakes can be made, calculations can be wrong, and who knows what would happen?”

Biden said later, “He can’t just keep talking about using a tactical nuclear weapon as if it’s a good idea.” “The mistakes get made. And the miscalculation could happen. No one knows for sure what would happen, but it could lead to Armageddon.”

Biden refused to say what the US would do if Putin followed through on his nuclear threats. But he said that the Department of Defense had made plans for what to do if the situation came to pass.

“What is the red line for the U.S. and NATO? Have you told the Pentagon and other agencies to play out what would happen if he used a tactical nuclear weapon or bombed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine or something similar?” Tapper asked.

“There have been talks about that, but I’m not going to get into that. “It would be irresponsible of me to say what we would or would not do,” Biden said.

“Have you asked the Pentagon to figure it out, though?” Tapper asked.

“The Pentagon did not have to be asked,” Biden said.

Biden talked to Tapper a few hours after meeting virtually with members of the Group of 7 industrialised nations. They heard from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about the need to strengthen his country’s air defences in light of the new Russian bombings.

Zelensky told the meeting that “common efforts to create an air shield for Ukraine” need to be stepped up because Russia has been sending cruise missiles and drones to attack.

White House officials have said that the US is ready to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences even more, including with missile defence systems that Biden rushed to deliver over the summer.

Yet, Russia’s heavy aerial attacks on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and on civilian infrastructure suggested that Putin might be trying out new ways to scare Ukrainians as winter approaches.

‘Consequences’ for Saudi Arabia
Biden told Tapper that he thought it was time to “rethink” the US’s relationship with Saudi Arabia after the kingdom worked with Russia to cut oil production. This was a slap in the face for the White House, which had worked hard to stop such a decision.

Biden said, “I’m working on it. When the House and Senate come back, they’re going to have to – there’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done with Russia.”

The decision by the Saudi-led OPEC+ oil cartel to cut production last week angered the White House, where officials said Biden was personally disappointed by what they called a “shortsighted” decision.

The move, which happened three months after Biden went to Saudi Arabia and met with the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has the potential to raise gas prices in the weeks before the midterm elections in November.

“Let’s get straight why I went,” Biden said. “I didn’t go because of oil. I went to make sure that we weren’t going to leave the Middle East.”

After reaching highs over the summer, gas prices had been steadily going down, giving Biden and his top aides a powerful talking point in the run-up to the election.

But a combination of things, like rising demand and maintenance at some US refineries, have caused prices to start going back up. The OPEC+ decision is likely to make these factors worse.

For Biden, the decision was especially hurtful because he had worked over the summer to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, despite the kingdom’s terrible record on human rights and bin Salman’s role in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.