Joe Biden's heated exchange with Vladimir Putin in Kremlin meeting: 'You've got no soul'

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US President Joe Biden has arrived in Geneva ahead of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Air Force One flew in from Brussels, landing at Cointrin airport on Tuesday afternoon. Mr Biden then went straight to his guarded hotel for talks with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, whose country represents US interests in Iran.

Tomorrow will be Mr Biden’s first meeting with Mr Putin since becoming US President in January and comes almost a week after he attended the G7 summit in the UK and met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The US President also took part in a Nato summit earlier this week, where he called Russia’s leader “tough”, “bright” and a “worthy adversary” ahead of their encounter.

The New York Times reported that some Nato leaders had expressed concerns that just by meeting with the Russian President, Mr Biden risked appearing soft on Russia.

The US leader has denied this, saying: “Every world leader here, as a member of Nato, has spoken today, and most have mentioned it, thanked me for meeting with Putin now.”

Mr Biden will balance a hard line with an effort to re-engage with Moscow.

The two go back a long way.

During a visit to the Kremlin in 2011 while serving as vice president, Mr Biden even Mr Putin, who at the time was prime minister, that he did not believe he had “a soul”.

Mr Biden told the New Yorker magazine the incident occurred while he was touring Putin’s office in the Kremlin.

He said: “I had an interpreter, and when he was showing me his office I said, ‘It’s amazing what capitalism will do, won’t it?

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“A magnificent office!’ And he laughed. As I turned, I was this close to him.”

“I said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.’”

Pressed on if the anecdote was true, Mr Biden confirmed: “Absolutely, positively.”

He added: “And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’

“This is who this guy is!”

The exchange was a play on comments former President George W. Bush made after inviting Putin to visit him at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.


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Mr Bush said at the time: “I looked the man in the eye.

“I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul.

“He’s a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country, and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue, and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship.”

Russia has recently included the US on its official list of “unfriendly states”.

Both sides describe relations as at rock bottom and neither currently has an ambassador in-country.

Senior Russian officials are under American sanctions – from annexing Ukraine’s Crimea to alleged election meddling.

Moreover, two former US marines are now in Russian prisons – one serving 16 years accused of espionage.

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