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‘Killer’ without a soul: What has Joe Biden said about Vladimir Putin?

·2-min read
‘Killer’ without a soul: What has Joe Biden said about Vladimir Putin?

Joe Biden is facing one of the toughest tests of his presidency to date when he faces up against Vladimir Putin at a bilateral summit in Geneva on Wednesday.

The US president has previously referred to the Russian president as an “autocrat,” a “dictator” and a “killer”, with relations between the countries at an all-time low.

So what exactly has Mr Biden said about Mr Putin? And how likely is it that he will forge any kind of rapport with the Russian leader when they sit down today?

Mr Biden recalled his previous, awkward 2011 meeting with Mr Putin during a TV interview earlier this year – admitting he told the Russian leader that he was “killer” who “doesn’t have a soul”.

The US president told ABC News in March: “I wasn’t being a wise guy. He looked back at me and said, ‘We understand each other’.”

Mr Biden also claimed Mr Putin would face consequences for efforts to meddle in the US presidential election. “He will pay a price … You’ll see shortly.”

Mr Putin responded by repeating the playground ditty that “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” – pointedly wishing Mr Biden the “best of health”.

But the tone from the US has become more careful and respectful in recent days. Mr Biden acknowledged that Mr Putin is not without political talent.

“He’s bright. He’s tough. And I have found that he is, as they say ... a worthy adversary,” the US president told reporters during the Nato summit earlier this week.

“We should decide where it’s in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that,” Mr Biden said. “And the areas where we don’t agree, make it clear what the red lines are.”

The Biden team will press its concerns on cybersecurity. In recent months, Russia-based hackers have launched crippling attacks on a major US oil pipeline and a meat supplier that operates in the US.

The Russian side has said that the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is an internal political matter and one area where Putin will not engage Biden.

But a senior Biden administration official said there “is no issue that is off the table for the president” – suggesting Navalny will come up.

“I know him relatively well,” Mr Biden said back in March, claiming that “the most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience … is just know the other guy.”

We will have to wait for the post-summit press conferences to see if Mr Biden feels he knows his counterpart any better, and if any warmth has developed between the adversaries.

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