Mar 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden says he believes Putin is a "killer"

President Biden said in an interview with ABC Wednesday that he believes Vladimir Putin is a "killer," and promised that the Russian president will "pay a price" for interfering in the 2020 U.S. elections.

Why it matters: Biden has pledged to take a hard line against the Kremlin, which has a history of attempting to assassinate and imprison dissidents and political opponents.

  • The U.S. intelligence community released a report on Tuesday assessing that Putin authorized election influence operations aimed at denigrating Biden's candidacy, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the election and sowing divisions.
  • The U.S. also sanctioned seven senior Russian officials earlier this month over the poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who is currently serving out a sentence in a remote Russian labor camp.

What they're saying: While Biden confirmed that he does believe Putin is a killer, he also added that it's possible to "walk and chew gum at the same time for places where it's in our mutual interest to to work together" — addressing his decision to extend the New START nuclear arms control pact earlier this year.

  • "He will pay a price. We had a long talk, he and I. I know him relatively well and the conversation started off, I said, 'I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred then be prepared,'" Biden said when asked how the U.S. should respond to Russia's election interference.

Referencing President George W. Bush's famous comments about getting a "sense" of Putin's "soul," Biden told ABC: "I said, 'I looked in your eyes and I don't think you have a soul.' He looked back and said we understand each other."

  • "Look, the most important thing in dealing with foreign leaders in my experience, and I've dealt with an awful lot of them in my career, is just know the other guy."

Flashback: Former President Trump said in a 2017 interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that he has "respect" for Putin.

  • O'Reilly responded that "Putin is a killer," to which Trump said: "There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?"
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