US-Russia ties nosedive after Biden-Putin tit-for-tat

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Sputnik

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting on social and economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol, via video conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW – U.S.-Russia ties nosedived on Thursday after Russian leader Vladimir Putin shot back at President Joe Biden’s description of him as a killer.

The back and forth underscored Biden's desire to distance himself from former President Donald 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.

In taking a tough stance on Russia, Biden has said the days of the U.S. “rolling over” to Putin are done. And he has taken pains to contrast his style with the approach of Trump, who avoided direct confrontation and frequently spoke about Putin with approval.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday, Biden replied “I do” when asked if he thought Putin was a “killer.” Also Wednesday, U.S. intelligence released a report finding that Putin authorized influence operations to help Trump's re-election bid.

Later that day, Putin recalled his ambassador to the U.S. and on Thursday he pointed at the U.S. history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.

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.

Putin had been asked about Biden’s comment during a video call marking the anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, and he responded along the lines of “it-takes-one-to-know-one,” saying his counterpart's words reflected the United States’ own problems. At the same time, he offered to have a phone call with Biden to discuss issues of mutual interest.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would continue to look to cooperate on efforts to stem Iran’s nuclear program and, more broadly, nuclear nonproliferation. But she said Biden did not regret referring to Putin as a killer and pushed back against suggestions that the rhetoric was unhelpful.