President Vladimir Putin’s offer to talk by phone with US President Joe Biden, the Kremlin said Friday, was made to keep bilateral relations from collapsing over the American’s remark that the Russian leader was a killer.
According to Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, “it makes sense to have a talk to preserve Russia-US relations rather than trade barbs,” and he decided to make it public to help defuse tensions over Biden’s “very bad remarks.”
When asked if he thought Putin was a “killer,” Biden replied, “I do.” Russia responded by recalling its ambassador to Washington for consultations, and Putin responded on Thursday by pointing to the United States’ past of slavery, Native American slaughter, and World War II atomic bombing of Japan in a “it-takes-one-to-know-one” response.
At the same time, Putin said that Russia will continue to work with the US when it supports Moscow’s interests, adding that “a lot of honest and decent citizens in the United States want peace and friendship with Russia.”
He proposed calling Biden in the coming days to speak about the coronavirus pandemic, regional disputes, and other problems, and he suggested that the call be open to the public.
Putin’s offer to make the call public, according to Peskov, was made to avoid Biden’s comment from causing irreparable harm to the already strained relations.
“Because Biden’s words were so unusual, unprecedented formats can’t be ruled out,” Peskov said. “President Putin suggested that the situation be addressed publicly because it would be beneficial to both countries’ citizens.”
By taking a strong stand against Russia, Biden has confirmed that the United States’ days of “rolling over” to Putin are over. And he has gone to great lengths to contrast his stance with that of former President Donald Trump, who avoided direct conflict with Putin and often praised him.
Biden will continue to pursue agreement on attempts to stop Iran’s nuclear programme and, more generally, nuclear nonproliferation, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. She did note, however, that Biden did not regret referring to Putin as a killer, and she fought back against arguments that the rhetoric was counterproductive.
Ties between Russia and the United States and the European Union had already deteriorated to post-Cold War levels.