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

Watch Jake Tapper’s exclusive interview with President Joe Biden on CNN Tonight with Jake Tapper at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday.



CNN

President Joe Biden said in an exclusive interview with CNN on Tuesday that he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was a ‘rational actor’ who nevertheless misjudged his ability to invade Ukraine and repress its people.

“I think he’s a rational actor who miscalculated dramatically,” Biden told Jake Tapper as Russian bombings of civilian targets in Ukraine marked another turning point in the months-long war.

Tapper’s full interview with Biden airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on “CNN Tonight with Jake Tapper.”

Biden, his top aides and fellow Western leaders have spent the past few months debating what action Putin might take as his troops suffer embarrassing battlefield casualties in Ukraine. Biden himself warned last week that the risk of “nuclear Armageddon” was at its highest level in 60 years.

Whether Putin is acting rationally has been the subject of intense debate as leaders scramble to predict his next steps. While Biden said on Tuesday he thought Putin himself was rational, he called the Russian leader’s goals in Ukraine – which Putin laid out in an angry speech as he launched the war in February – ridiculous.

“You listen to what he says. If you listen to the speech he gave after this decision was made, he talked about the whole idea of ​​- it was necessary to be the leader of Russia who united all Russian speakers. I mean, it’s just that I think it’s irrational,” Biden said.

Going further, Biden said Putin mistakenly believed Ukrainians would submit to Russian invasion – a misjudgment that was refuted by fierce resistance inside the country.

“I think the speech, its objectives were not rational. I think he thought, Jake, I think he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was Mother Russia’s home in Kyiv, and that where he was going to be welcomed, and I think ‘he just miscalculated,’ Biden said.

Indeed, a counteroffensive launched by Ukraine last month successfully recaptured territory previously held by the Russians, including critical transportation hubs. The losses proved the last major embarrassment for Russia, whose army struggled during the seven-month war.

This week, however, Russia launched one of its fiercest bombing campaigns since its invasion in late February. At least 19 people have been killed and more than 100 injured across the country, as far away as the western city of Lviv, hundreds of kilometers from the main theaters of war in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Biden spoke to Tapper a few hours after meeting virtually with members of the Group of 7 industrialized nations, who heard Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky talk about the need to strengthen his country’s air defenses amid renewed Russian bombardment.

Zelensky told the meeting that “joint efforts to create an air shield for Ukraine” must be intensified amid a barrage of Russian cruise missile and drone attacks.

White House officials have said the United States stands ready to further bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, including through missile defense systems that Biden accelerated delivery over the summer.

Yet Russia’s intense air assault on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and civilian infrastructure has suggested that Putin may be employing new tactics designed to terrorize Ukrainians as winter approaches.

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