Joe Biden has said he thinks Vladimir Putin is a killer and doesn’t have a soul.
The US President warned that his Russian counterpart will soon face consequences for directing efforts to swing the 2020 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump.
“He will pay a price,” Biden told ABC News in an interview that aired on Wednesday.
Asked what the consequences would be, he said, “You’ll see shortly.”
His comments come after a US intelligence report on Tuesday bolstered longstanding allegations that Putin was behind Moscow’s election interference, an accusation Russia called baseless.
At the same time, Biden noted that “there’s places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together” such as renewing the START nuclear agreement, adding that the two leaders have a known history.
“I know him relatively well,” Biden said, adding that “the most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience … is just know the other guy.”
Of Putin, Biden said he told the Russian leader that he didn’t think he had a soul.
The remarkable suggestion came while the two men were alone together during a meeting and was prompted by George Bush having said that he had looked in Putin’s eyes and said the opposite.
The Russian leader responded to Biden: “We understand each other.”
When interviewer George Stephanopoulos asked: “So you know Vladimir Putin. You think he’s a killer?”
“Mmm hmm, I do,” Biden replied.
In 2001 Bush famously looked into Putin’s eyes to get a measure of him.
“I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy,” Bush said in remarks he later regretted.
“. . . I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
The comments would come to haunt Bush, who was accused of being soft with the Russian leader.
Donald Trump was regularly charged with being too close to Putin, whom he occasionally praised during his rallies.
In March 2016 the former President said: “Putin said good things about me. He said, ‘He’s a leader and there’s no question about it, he’s a genius.’ So they all said, the media, they said – you saw it on the debate – they said, ‘you admire President Putin.’
“I said, I don’t admire him. I said he was a strong leader, which he is. I mean, he might be bad, he might be good. But he’s a strong leader.”
From the start of his presidency Biden has looked to take a different tack, distancing himself from Russia.
He has set out his foreign policy stall against a backdrop of a huge Russian hacking operation called SolarWinds, reports Russian bounties were put on US soldiers in Afghanistan, and the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
In January he said: “I find that we can both operate in the mutual self-interest of our countries as a New START agreement, and make it clear to Russia that we are very concerned about their behavior, whether it’s Navalny, whether it’s the SolarWinds or whether it’s the reports of bounties on the heads of Americans in Afghanistan,” Biden said. ”I will not hesitate to raise those issues with the Russians.”