US President Joe Biden unloaded on Russia’s Vladimir Putin in a speech in Poland in one of his most passionate speeches. Here is an edited transcript of what he said:
“Thank you, thank you, thank you. Please, if you have a seat, be seated. (Laughter) If you don’t, come up on stage.
“Be not afraid.” They were the first words at the first public address of the first Polish Pope after his election on October of 1978. They were words that would come to define Pope John Paul II. Words that would change the world.
John Paul brought the message here to Warsaw in his first trip back home as Pope in June of 1979. It was a message about the power – the power of faith, the power of resilience, and the power of the people.
In the face of a cruel and brutal system of government, it was a message that helped end the Soviet repression in the Central land and Eastern Europe 30 years ago. It was a message that will overcome the cruelty and brutality of this unjust war.
When Pope John Paul brought that message in 1979, the Soviet Union ruled with an iron fist behind an Iron Curtain.
Then a year later, the Solidarity movement took hold in Poland. And while I know he couldn’t be here tonight, we’re all grateful in America and around the world for Lech Wałęsa. (Applause.)
It reminds me of that phrase of philosopher Kierkegaard: “faith sees best in the dark.” And there were dark moments.
In this battle, we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days or months either. We need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead.
Today, Russia has strangled democracy – has sought to do so elsewhere, not only in its homeland. Under false claims of ethnic solidarity, it has invalidated neighboring nations.
It’s a lie, it’s just cynical
Putin has the gall to say he’s “de-Nazifying” Ukraine. It’s a lie. It’s just cynic. He knows that. And it’s also obscene.
President Zelensky was democratically elected. He’s Jewish. His father’s family was wiped out in the Nazi Holocaust. And Putin has the audacity, like all autocrats before him, to believe that might will make right.
Time and again, we offered real diplomacy and concrete proposals to strengthen European security, enhance transparency, and build confidence on all sides.
But Putin and Russia met each of the proposals with disinterest in any negotiation, with lies and ultimatums. Russia was bent on violence from the start.
I know not all of you believed me and us when we kept saying, “They are going to cross the border. They are going to attack.”
Repeatedly, he asserted, “We have no interest in war.” Guaranteed he would not move.
Repeatedly saying he would not invade Ukraine.
Repeatedly saying Russian troops along the border were there for “training” – all 180,000 of them.
There is simply no justification or provocation for Russia’s choice of war. It’s an example of one of the oldest of human impulses: using brute force and disinformation to satisfy a craving for absolute power and control.
Swift and punishing costs are the only things that are going to get Russia to change its course.
Rouble reduced to ruble
As a result of these unprecedented sanctions, the rouble is almost immediately reduced to rubble. The Russian economy (applause) that’s true, by the way. It takes about 200 rubles to equal one dollar.
The economy is on track to be cut in half in the coming years. It was ranked — Russia’s economy was ranked the 11th biggest economy in the world before this invasion. It will soon not even rank among the top 20 in the world. (Applause.)
Taken together, these economic sanctions are a new kind of economic statecraft with the power to inflict damage that rivals military might.
These international sanctions are sapping Russian strength, its ability to replenish its military, and its ability – its ability to project power. And it is Putin – it is Vladimir Putin who is to blame, period.
And thanks to the courage and bravery of the Ukrainian people (applause) the equipment we’ve sent and our colleagues have sent have been used to devastating effect to defend Ukrainian land and airspace. Our Allies and partners have stepped up as well.
We have a sacred obligation – (applause) – we have a sacred obligation under Article 5 to defend each and every inch of NATO territory with the full force of our collective power.
And earlier today, I visited your National Stadium, where thousands of Ukrainian refugees are now trying to answer the toughest questions a human can ask: “My God, what’s going to happen to me? What’s going to happen to my family?
‘Is my brother and my daddy – are they going to be okay?’
I saw tears in many of the mothers’ eyes as I embraced them; their young children – their young children not sure whether to smile or cry. One little girl said, “Mr President” — she spoke a little English — “is my brother and my daddy — are they going to be okay? Will I see them again?” Without their husbands, their fathers, in many cases, their brothers or sisters who stayed back to fight for their country.
I didn’t have to speak the language or understand the language to feel the emotion in their eyes, the way they gripped my hand, and little kids hung on to my leg, praying with a desperate hope that all this is temporary; apprehension that they may be perhaps forever away from their homes, almost with debilitating sadness that this is happening all over again.
But I was also struck by the generosity of the people of Warsaw — for that matter, all the Polish people — for the depths of their compassion, their willingness to reach out – (applause) – opening their hearts.
Notwithstanding the brutality of Vladimir Putin, let there be no doubt that this war has already been a strategic failure for Russia already. (Applause.) Having lost children myself — I know that’s no solace to the people who’ve lost family.
But he, Putin, thought Ukrainians would roll over and not fight. Not much of a student of history. Instead, Russian forces have met their match with brave and stiff Ukrainian resistance.
Rather than breaking Ukrainian resolve, Russia’s brutal tactics have strengthened the resolve. (Applause.)
Rather than driving NATO apart, the West is now stronger and more united than it has ever been. (Applause.)
Russia wanted less of a NATO presence on its border, but now he has [we have] a stronger presence, a larger presence, with over a hundred thousand American troops here, along with all the other members of NATO.
In fact – (applause) – Russia has managed to cause something I’m sure he never intended: The democracies of the world are revitalised with purpose and unity found in months that we’d once taken years to accomplish.
It’s not only Russia’s actions in Ukraine that are reminding us of democracy’s blessing. It’s our own country – his own country, the Kremlin, is jailing protestors. Two hundred thousand people have allegedly already left. There’s a brain drain – leaving Russia. Shutting down independent news. State media is all propaganda, blocking the image of civilian targets, mass graves, starvation tactics of the Russian forces in Ukraine.
Is it any wonder, as I said, that 200,000 Russians have all left their country in one month? A remarkable brain drain in such a short period of time, which brings me to my message to the Russian people:
I’ve worked with Russian leaders for decades. I sat across the negotiating table going all the way back to Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin to talk arms control at the height of the Cold War.
I’ve always spoken directly and honestly to you, the Russian people.
The Russian people are not our enemy
Let me say this, if you’re able to listen: You, the Russian people, are not our enemy.
I refuse to believe that you welcome the killing of innocent children and grandparents or that you accept hospitals, schools, maternity wards that, for God’s sake, are being pummeled with Russian missiles and bombs; or cities being surrounded so that civilians cannot flee; supplies cut off and attempting to starve Ukrainians into submission.
Millions of families are being driven from their homes, including half of all Ukraine’s children. These are not the actions of a great nation.
Now, Vladimir Putin’s aggression has cut you, the Russian people, off from the rest of the world, and it’s taking Russia back to the 19th century.
This is not who you are. This is not the future reserve – you deserve for your families and your children. I’m telling you the truth: This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people.
Putin can and must end this war. The American people stand with you and the brave citizens of Ukraine who want peace.
It’s not enough to speak with rhetorical flourish, of ennobling words of democracy, of freedom, equality, and liberty. All of us, including here in Poland, must do the hard work of democracy each and every day. My country as well.
That’s why – (applause) – that’s why I came to Europe again this week with a clear and determined message for NATO, for the G7, for the European Union, for all freedom-loving nations: We must commit now to be in this fight for the long haul. We must remain unified today and tomorrow and the day after and for the years and decades to come. (Applause.)
For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power
It will not be easy. There will be costs. But it’s a price we have to pay. Because the darkness that drives autocracy is ultimately no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere.
Time and again, history shows that it’s from the darkest moments that the greatest progress follows. And history shows this is the task of our time, the task of this generation.
Let’s remember: The hammer blow that brought down the Berlin Wall, the might that lifted the Iron Curtain were not the words of a single leader; it was the people of Europe who, for decades, fought to free themselves.
Their sheer bravery opened the border between Austria and Hungary for the Pan-European Picnic. They joined hands for the Baltic Way. They stood for Solidarity here in Poland. And together, it was an unmistakable and undeniable force of the people that the Soviet Union could not withstand.
And we’re seeing it once again today with the brave Ukrainian people, showing that their power of many is greater than the will of any one dictator. (Applause.)
So, in this hour, let the words of Pope John Paul burn as brightly today: “Never, ever give up hope, never doubt, never tire, never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” (Applause.)
A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people’s love for liberty. Brutality will never grind down their will to be free. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia — for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness.
We will have a different future – a brighter future rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light, of decency and dignity, of freedom and possibilities.
For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.
God bless you all. And may God defend our freedom. (Applause.) And may God protect our troops. Thank you for your patience. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.