It was clear that the message was obvious. At his first press conference since November — an event that was meant to be a reset for a presidency that has already had more resets than a dud satellite box — Joe Biden gave Vladimir Putin the green light to attack Ukraine.

That’s what I heard when I watched his mumbling, stumbling performance on Wednesday afternoon. It’s what millions of Americans heard — and it’s what Vladimir Putin was waiting to hear.

Biden said that Russia ‘will be held accountable if it invades’ Ukraine, but then added that ‘it depends on what it does’.

‘It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion, and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,’ Biden went on. ‘But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia.’

Biden said that Russia ¿will be held accountable if it invades¿ Ukraine, but then added that ¿it depends on what it does¿

Biden said that Russia ‘will be held accountable if it invades’ Ukraine, but then added that ‘it depends on what it does’

In other words, Putin is welcome to sink his teeth into a European state and an American ally — just so long as he doesn’t take too big a bite.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was understandably appalled. ‘We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,’ he tweeted. ‘Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the president of a great power.’

The country’s foreign minister was less subtle — he stated baldly that Biden’s comments could invite a Russian attack.

The leader of the free world was once again thinking openly. And proving again that he can’t be trusted.

The White House launched a desperate effort to tidy up the mess, with Biden clarifying some of his remarks. ‘I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding,’ he said. ‘If any — any — assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.’

However, the damage was done.

Putin is welcome to sink his teeth into a European state and an American ally ¿ just so long as he doesn¿t take too big a bite

Putin is welcome to sink his teeth into a European state and an American ally — just so long as he doesn’t take too big a bite

Europe’s security is in jeopardy, with the future of Nato at stake. The credibility of the United States is on the line, and America’s allies are looking for a cool head and unconditional support for the basic principles of international law and order. The sheriff, in a mature moment, revealed the plan and said that he was a present and clear danger to international peace.

This was not an isolated incident. Whenever the President pokes his head above the parapet, Biden’s team are hanging on every ill-considered word, and issuing ‘clarifications’ of his addled thoughts in real time. It’s farcical, but it’s how this hopeless administration operates.

Biden pledged unscripted support to China’s fight against Taiwan twice last year. China doesn’t recognise Taiwan’s independence. For more than four decades, the U.S. has followed a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’: it has armed Taiwan, but it has never stated what it would do if China attacked the country.

Biden’s ad libs threatened to upset the nuclear-tipped balance of power in the Pacific. Biden was warned by the Chinese foreign ministry to be careful with his words. The U.S., it said, should ‘be cautious with its words and actions’ and ‘not send any wrong signals so as not to damage China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait’.

The White House clarifiers back then said the President ‘misspoke’. When he said the U.S. would fight China because it had a ‘commitment’, he didn’t mean it.

It was clear that the harm had already been done. America couldn’t keep its word. The rest of the world realized this. Allies ran for cover, and the West’s enemies licked their chops.

Biden hasn’t just ‘lost a step’ as the Americans say. He’s not even in the game.

The President’s loose lips are causing the sinking of the state ship, while his popularity at home is waning.

While the White House may be in denial about the situation, the nation is confronted with the reality that a president in apparent mental decline is a sad fact.

In a mid-November poll, only 46 per cent agreed that Biden was ‘mentally fit’ — and 48 per cent thought he wasn’t up to the job. Just 34 per cent think he’s ‘energetic’, and a mere 37 per cent think he’s a ‘clear communicator’.

On Wednesday, the gaffemeister-in-chief struggled to field the softest of questions.

Asked if the voters might punish the Democrats in November’s midterms, Biden replied: ‘Oh I think that it could be . . . I mean, I hope in God that they’re, uh . . . That. . . Look. . . maybe I’m kidding myself . . . The clock goes on. . .’

The security of Europe is on a knife-edge, the future of Nato in the balance as tensions rise on the Ukrainian border

As tensions escalate at the Ukrainian border, Europe’s security is in limbo. The future of NATO will be held hostage.

In the middle of a sentence, he falls silent for five second. The ceiling is all he sees.

He grips his lectern and his folder of facts as if he’s trying to squeeze out some inspiration. He quickly gets tired.

The more tired he gets, the more he falls back on mock-spontaneous fillers — ‘C’mon, man!’ – while he tries to remember what he was saying. He becomes more and more angry.

Everybody has a relative with cognitive decline. Everyone knows Biden’s rapid decline. In the care homes of America, they call his trouble ‘sundowning’. The day is a blurring of energy and focus.

At sundown the old-timers have fallen asleep, or are close to it. But this is the President of the world’s greatest superpower.

Biden’s first year poll results are the lowest of any President in modern history. He makes Jimmy Carter look like Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Even the broadcaster CNN, which acclaimed Biden’s victory in the 2020 elections with Pravda-like enthusiasm, has turned on him. Van Jones, an Obama appointee-turned-talking head on the network, called Biden’s performance on Wednesday ‘foggy and meandering, like Reagan at the end’.

The difference is, Reagan was on his way out by that stage — and he had won the Cold War. Biden has just one year left of his presidency. He’s the figurehead of an arrogant and ignorant administration, and he’s just invited Putin to become the master of Europe.

Biden says he wants to run again in 2024, but even his deputy Kamala Harris refuses to give a straight answer when she’s asked if she would endorse him.

The world saw that America could no longer keep its promises. Allies ran for cover, and the West¿s enemies licked their chops

America was unable to keep its promises, and the rest of the world knew it. Allies ran for cover, and the West’s enemies licked their chops

Her doubts are shared by the public. It’s bad news for Biden that only 28 per cent of Americans want him to run again.

It’s a disaster for him that only 48 per cent of registered Democrats back a second Biden term.

‘Why do you suppose such large segments of the American electorate have come to harbour such profound concerns about your cognitive fitness?’ a reporter from the conservative site Newsmax asked Biden on Wednesday.

‘I have no idea,’ he croaked.

He spoke truth to his own words.

Putin’s smile in the Kremlin bunker is unfailing.

Dr Dominic Green is the editor of The Spectator’s world edition.