President Vladimir Putin responded Thursday to U.S. President Joe Biden’s description of the Russian leader as a killer by citing America’s past and present troubles, from slavery and the slaughter of Native Americans to racial injustice.
Biden was asked in an interview this week whether he thought Putin was a killer, and he replied, “I do,” a remark that prompted Russia to recall its ambassador in Washington for consultations and warn about further retaliation.
Biden has taken a tough stance on Russia, saying that the days of the US “rolling over” to Putin are done, contrasting his style with the approach of former President Donald Trump, who avoided direct confrontation and frequently spoke about Putin with approval.
Putin was asked about Biden’s comment during a video call marking the anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and he responded with an “it-takes-one-to-know-one”-style remark, saying his counterpart’s words reflected the United States’ own problems.
He pointed at the US atomic bombing of Japan during World War II, as well as its history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans, noting the painful legacies weighing on the United States.
“Otherwise, where would the Black Lives Matter movement come from?” he said, citing racial injustice and the killing of African Americans.
The exchange of tough statements follows a declassified report from the US national intelligence director’s office that found Putin authorized influence operations to try to help Trump in his failed bid to win reelection in November. The Kremlin has dismissed the report as baseless.
“(Putin) will pay a price,” Biden said in the interview, asked about the declassified report.
Biden’s administration warned that Russia would face sanctions soon over its attempt to influence last year’s US election and the massive Solar Wind hacks.
The spiraling tensions have brought US-Russian relations to the point where they were at the end of President Barack Obama’s administration, a chilly strain that differed markedly from Trump’s efforts to court Putin.
Asked what he would tell Biden in response to his remarks, Putin said: “I would tell him: ‘Be well.’ I wish him health, and I say that without any irony or joking.”
Recalling his youth, Putin said that he and his friends would respond to insults with the taunt: “The names you call are what you are yourself” — a Russian version of the childhood riposte, “I’m rubber, you’re glue; what you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”
“It’s not just a rhymed childish joke; it has a deep psychological meaning: We see our own qualities in another man, we think he’s like us and judge him accordingly,” he added.
Putin said the US establishment likes to air accusations against other countries as part of its efforts to “solve domestic and foreign policy problems.”
He noted that Russia would still cooperate with the United States where and when it supports Moscow’s interests, adding that “a lot of honest and decent people in the US want to have peace and friendship with Russia.”