Russia-US relations ‘in crisis’ as Biden calls Putin ‘a killer’

‘It takes one to know one,’ Putin responds as Moscow recalls envoy for consultations

US president Joe Biden said he agrees with the assessment that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a ‘killer.’ Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Moscow has said relations with Washington are in crisis and that the White House shows no interest in repairing them, after US president Joe Biden said he regarded Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as "a killer".

Russia recalled its ambassador from Washington for consultations and a host of Moscow politicians denounced Mr Biden after he said "I do" when asked in a US television interview whether he believed Mr Putin was a killer.

“I remember in childhood when we would argue in the courtyard, we’d say: ‘It takes one to know one’,” Mr Putin said on Thursday in response to Mr Biden’s comments.

“We always see in someone else our own traits and we think that they are like us, and we judge their actions based on that.”


Mr Putin, who often rails against US “exceptionalism”, claimed Russians had “a different genetic and cultural-moral code” to Americans but would defend their national interests and “work with them in areas that interest us, on terms that we consider beneficial for us”.

“They will have to reckon with that, despite all efforts to stop our development, despite sanctions and insults,” he added, as Russia marked seven years since it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a move condemned by the West.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Biden’s “very bad” remarks made it “clear that he does not want to get the relationship with our country back on track, and we will proceed from that”.

The Russian embassy in Washington announced that ambassador Anatoly Antonov would return to Moscow on Saturday to “discuss ways to rectify Russia-US ties that are in crisis”.

‘Threat of collapse’

The embassy said bilateral ties were in “deadlock” and “certain ill-considered statements of high-ranking US officials have put the already excessively confrontational relations under the threat of collapse”.

Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament and a prominent commentator on foreign relations, said Moscow’s recall of its envoy was an appropriate reaction to Mr Biden’s comments “and I suspect it will not be the last, if there is no clarification and apology from the American side”.

“This is a watershed,” he added. “Any hopes of a new policy towards Russia from the new US administration have been written off by this boorish statement.”

Mr Biden also said Mr Putin would “pay a price” for allegedly trying to undermine his 2020 election campaign, but did not clarify what that would entail; the US and EU recently imposed new sanctions on Russian officials for the state’s suspected role in the near-fatal poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was jailed on his return to Russia in January.

Russian officials are increasingly critical of US-based social media that are popular with opposition groups, and they have threatened to block access to Twitter next month unless it removes “banned content”.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe