President Biden said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a killer” in an interview Wednesday, vowing that he would “pay a price” for his election meddling efforts.
The commander-in-chief made the remarks to ABC’s “Good Morning America” after being asked about a report from the office of the Director of National Intelligence which implicated the Kremlin in efforts to undermine US elections and divide American society.
“He will pay a price. We had a long talk, he and I, I know him relatively well,” the 46th president said, “And the conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.”
Asked by GMA anchor George Stephanopoulos about his previous comment that he did not believe the Russian president had a soul, Biden confirmed those remarks.
“I did say that to him, yes, and his response was, ‘We understand one another.’ I wasn’t being a wise guy, I was alone with him in his office and that’s how it came about.”
Biden then referenced former President Bush’s famous remark following the 2001 Slovenia Summit between himself and Putin that he “looked the man in the eye. I found him very straightforward and trustworthy – I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
“I said ‘I looked through your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul,’” to the Russian leader, Biden told Stephanopoulos, to which Putin looked back and replied, “we understand each other.”
“Look, the most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience — and I’ve dealt with an awful lot in my career — is just know the other guy.”
Asked if he thinks Putin is “a killer,” Biden responded, “I do.”
Biden said the Russian leader would pay a price for his actions undermining the United States, but that the two nations would still need to work together.
“The price he’s gonna pay, well, you’ll see shortly,” he remarked before saying that he wanted to be able to “walk and chew gum at the same time, and there are places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together.”
“That’s why I renewed the START agreement with them. That occurred while he’s doing this,” he continued, appearing to reference Putin’s election interference efforts, “But that’s overwhelming, in the interest of humanity, that we diminish the prospect of a nuclear exchange.”
Relations between the US and Russia have been complex in recent years, made worse by the Kremlin-backed invasions of Crimea and Ukraine, Moscow “interfering” in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s poisoning and the devastating, massive cyberattack on US’ computer systems, which Russia has been blamed for by intelligence officials.
For its part, Russia has said it expects “nothing positive” from the Biden administration.