Russian President Vladimir Putin, ahead of his first in-person interaction with US President Joe Biden after the latter’s inauguration, has told NBC News that his country’s relations with the US have reached its “lowest point” in recent years.
“We have a bilateral relationship that has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin said.
In the interview, Putin praised former US President Donald Trump, whose close relations with the Russian premier were the source of criticism from Democratic opponents in the US who viewed many of Trump’s actions as having benefited Russian policy.
"Well even now, I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. president," Putin told NBC. "He is a colourful individual. You may like him or not. And, but he didn't come from the U.S. establishment. He had not been part of big-time politics before, and some like it, some don’t like it but that is a fact."
On Biden, Putin was more cautious and offered little praise, saying he was "radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man. He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics."
"That's a different kind of person, and it is my great hope that, yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting U.S. president," he said.
In contrast, Biden’s language for Putin triggered an early diplomatic uproar in his presidency, after he said Putin was a killer, to which Putin later replied “It takes one to know one”. When Biden was Vice-President in the Obama administration, he famously remarked that Putin “had no soul”, a quote that is often held up as a sign that he would be tougher against Putin than Trump was.
However, when asked about the “killer” accusation in his NBC interview, Putin said such remarks were often made about him.
On June 16, Putin is set to meet Biden in Geneva for a summit, where the two leaders are expected to cover strategic nuclear stability as well as the deteriorating relationship between the two countries.
The White House on Saturday said Biden would hold a solo press conference after his meeting with Putin, as this would be the “most appropriate format” to clearly communicate with the free press. In contrast, Trump had held a joint press conference with the Russian leader in 2018, where he appeared to side with Russia against the American intelligence agencies on the matter of Russian interference in the previous election.