US President Biden's declaration that a genocide is underway in Ukraine won't change US policy and shouldn't be confusing to other world leaders, the White House insisted Wednesday.
Biden made the remark as observers gain greater access to devastated areas of Ukraine, and was speaking to "what we all see, what he feels as clear as day in terms of the atrocities happening on the ground," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
She was speaking a day after Biden made the remark in Iowa, first in passing during a speech about ethanol and later more directly on a tarmac.
Psaki said the legal process for determining whether genocide was underway would proceed. But she said Biden was voicing his views as the US president, not just a personal stance.
"He's the President and we are here to implement his views," she said.
"He's the President of the United States and the leader of the free world and he is allowed to make his views known at any point he would like," she went on, adding later: "I think we shouldn't misunderstand who he is and where he stands on the totem pole, which is at the top."
Psaki told CNN's MJ Lee that fellow world leaders shouldn't be confused by Biden's statements, which often outpace official US designations — first on war crimes and now on genocide.
"I don't think anybody is confused about the atrocities of what we're seeing on the ground," she said.
"President Putin is brutally targeting civilians and brutalizing a country right now. So the President — this President — was speaking to what those atrocities are," she said.
She said even an official designation of genocide wouldn't necessarily change US policy.
"It doesn't change a policy," she said. "There would be an international effort to explore that and an investigation at an international level. Those often take many years."