The first setback suffered by the Biden administration in foreign relations is the ferocious reaction shown by Russian president Putin on a remark by Joe Biden in which he termed Putin as a killer. This serious departure from diplomatic protocol witnessed US-Russia ties nose-diving after Putin shot back at Biden’s description of him as a killer. The interpretation of this ugly spat mentions that it reflected Biden’s desire to distance himself from Trump’s perceived softness on Putin despite actions his administration took against Russia. Although Biden agreed to extend a major arms control deal with Russia, he has been notably cool toward Moscow and highly critical of many of its activities.
What appears as a natural rebuff to Putin on his policies that many perceive to be extraordinarily authoritarian crushing any opposition to it by using excessive coercion, Biden is portraying himself as taking up the cause of freedom and democratic fairness and his stance is just the reverse of that pursued by the Trump administration particularly when Biden declares that rolling-over days to Putin are over. As a serious about-turn Biden is indicating that he will not condone Putin’s excesses and will not avoid confrontation and will not grant approval to any action taken by Putin that is aimed at suppressing his opponents.
The fact of the matter is during an interview Biden replied “I do” when asked if he thought Putin was a “killer.” It so happened that on the same day a declassified report from the US national intelligence found Putin authorised influence operations to try to help Trump in his failed bid to win reelection in November. The White House insisted that President Joe Biden stands by his description of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer,” and he has refused to walk back a comment that’s escalated long-running tensions between the two countries. On the other hand, the Kremlin has dismissed the report as baseless. Later that day, Putin recalled his ambassador to the US and he pointed at the US history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.
The Russian embassy in Washington said the ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, would leave and would have a meeting with the foreign ministry in Moscow to discuss ways to rectify Russia-US ties that are in crisis. The move to recall its ambassador is almost unheard of in recent US-Russian relations. The last time Russia recalled its ambassador for consultations was reportedly in 1998 in protest over the bombing of Iraq ordered by then-President Bill Clinton. The reaction to Biden’s comments highlighted the tense relations between Russia and the US that appear likely only to worsen in the coming weeks as the Biden administration looks set to respond over a variety of alleged Russian misdeeds. However, Russia’s foreign ministry tried to downplay the reaction by stating that they are interested in not allowing the irreversible degradation of relations with the US and emphasised that that Americans should realise the risks connected with that.
To add to the acrimony, Biden also described Putin as having no soul, and said he would pay a price for alleged Russian meddling in the November 2020 US presidential election, something the Kremlin denies. Russia is preparing to be hit by a new round of US sanctions in the coming days over the US allegations of election interference and hacking. Biden’s words were unusually blunt and he is an experienced enough politician that he would not have answered the question directly had he not wanted to do so. However, it is still unclear what it means, given that so far this administration has talked tough on Russia without following up with more than token actions.
It is a matter of record that relations between Moscow and Washington have been strained since Biden took office. In coordination with the European Union, the US announced sanctions earlier this month against senior members of the Russian government over the detention of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny after his poisoning with a nerve agent last year. The sanctions were the first to target Moscow since Biden became president and opened a comprehensive review of US-Russia policy, including the Kremlin’s actions against Navalny, interference into the US election, the SolarWinds hack and reported bounties offered to Taliban-linked groups to target US forces in Afghanistan. Since Biden’s inauguration, the only moment of cooperation between the two nations came when the US and Russia extended a crucial nuclear arms control treaty last month. Responding to that, the White House said Biden would continue to look to work with Putin on areas of mutual concern but stressed that he was not going to hold back when he has concerns about Putin’s actions.
Russian President Putin has reacted to President Joe Biden calling him a killer by challenging Biden to take part in a conversation with him broadcast live online. He proposed to continue mutual discussion, but on the condition that it is done without any delays and directly in an open, direct discussion. Putin’s invitation seemed to amount to a challenge to Biden to a live televised debate and that too as early as possible. TW