Biden, Putin Go Head-to-Head

( – US President Joe Biden and Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin gave landmark speeches watched by the world on Tuesday ahead of the first anniversary since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Putin addressed Russia’s legislature in a 90-minute speech that blamed the West for everything, including the claim that Moscow attacked its democratic, pro-Western neighbor to “defend itself.”

On the other hand, Biden spoke in Warsaw, the capital of key US ally and NATO member Poland, after a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Monday.

The US president described Putin as an isolated dictator who used energy exports as a weapon and whose invasion of Ukraine helped strengthen bonds among the nations assisting the victim of his aggression.

“When President Putin ordered his tanks to roll into Ukraine, he thought we would roll over. He was wrong,” Biden said before cheering crowds in downtown Warsaw.

“Instead of an easy victory he perceived and predicted, Putin left with burnt-out tanks and Russia’s forces in disarray,” he added, as cited by the Hill.

Several hours earlier, the Russian leader tried to portray his country as the victim of a global conspiracy by “the Anglo-Saxons.”

“Let me reiterate that they were the ones who started this war, while we used force and are using it to stop the war,” Putin told his Federal Assembly.

The Moscow leader also suspended Russia’s participation in the New START nuclear arms treaty with the United States.

Russian officials subsequently clarified that Moscow would still observe the treaty unilaterally.

“It’s unclear what suspension means,” Daniel Hamilton from the Brookings Institution commented.

“Would the Russians try to use that time to contravene the agreement? Or is it more of a political signal that [Putin’s] grumpy,” he wondered.

Observers noted that Putin’s speech mentioned nothing about the rumors of a second military mobilization, shifting the economy to a war-time status, or closing the country’s borders.

“I see President Putin as a guy who’s stuck and who has also run out of ideas,” said John Herbst from the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, a former US ambassador to Ukraine.

“There was a great deal of speculation regarding the speech, especially because he tied it to preempt Biden’s Warsaw address, which has been on the books for weeks. We saw no real new path in this speech. It was old, it was tired,” he elaborated. Later on Tuesday, in Poland, US President Joe Biden denounced Putin’s “craven lust for land and power” and declared him solely responsible for the war in Ukraine.

“The West was not plotting to attack Russia, as Putin said today. And millions of Russian citizens who only want to live in peace with their neighbors are not the enemy. This war was never a necessity; it’s a tragedy,” Biden declared.

“President Putin is confronted with something today that he didn’t think was possible a year ago. The democracies of the world have grown stronger, not weaker. But the autocrats of the world have grown weaker, not stronger,” he concluded.