Joe Biden And Vladimir Putin's Relationship Explained

The relationship between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is, shall we say, less than warm and cozy. For one thing, Biden has said he thinks Putin is a killer, per Politico. On another occasion, during a 2011 meeting when Biden was still Vice President and Putin was Prime Minister of Russia, The New Yorker wrote that Biden claimed to have said to the Russian leader, "Mr. Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul."

To which Putin smiled and replied, "We understand one another." 

Then there's the recent stuff about Russia hacking U.S. government agencies, and the way the two leaders have different viewpoints on things like human rights and Russia's strong-arming in Ukraine, per NPR. But whether or not the two world leaders are chummy is moot, as it's important to both nations for the presidents to work together. It's likely both seasoned politicians understand that regardless of how they feel about each other's policies and methodologies, they each have something to gain from playing nice. 

Georgetown University Professor Angela Stent told NPR of Biden and Putin's relationship, "They certainly know each other, but I think it's a fairly realistic but probably brittle relationship. I don't think you'd expect any breakthrough anytime soon."

Biden and Putin are still feeling each other out

Still, according to NPR's reporting, Putin feels it's important for the world to see him having a one-on-one meeting with the U.S., as it shows Russia is an equal. Konstantin Eggert, a Russian political commentator, told NPR, "For him, being able to speak one-on-one with the United States is proof of Russia's superpower status and his global role."

For Biden's part, he seems to be keeping an open mind ahead of meeting with Putin for the first time as the U.S. president. He said in a press conference, "I have met with him. He's bright. He's tough. And I have found that he is a, as they used to say when I used to play ball, a worthy adversary," Politico reported. 

It was Biden who requested the June 16 meeting with the Russian president. According to Politico, Biden said in the recent press conference, "I'm going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses. And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond. We will respond in kind."

Putin told reporters in an annual news conference in December 2020 (posted on the Kremlin's website) that he didn't know what his relationship with Biden would be like, but said the make up of the Biden administration would play a big role in how that plays out. Putin said, "We are not expecting any surprises here."