Earlier in a televised interview, President Biden said he thought Russian leader Putin was a murderer
WASHINGTON – Officials in Washington reacted calmly to a summons from the Russian ambassador to the United States to Moscow for consultations on deteriorating bilateral relations.
The announcement came from Moscow shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden aired an ABC News interview in which he said Russian President Vladimir Putin would “pay” for his ill-advised actions.
When an ABC interviewer asked Biden if he thought Putin was a murderer, Biden replied, “I do.”
William Courtney, a senior fellow at the RAND Analytica Corporation, noted, “It is a rare case of a U.S. president calling the leader of a major opposing power a murderer.”
Courtney, who was a member of the U.S. delegation to the defense talks with the Soviet Union, told the Voice of America that “sometimes ambassadors are recalled after insults.”
“And, of course, the Biden administration is talking about new sanctions in connection with the cyberattack on SolarWinds. So both may have influenced Moscow’s decision,” he said.
At a briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to clarify whether Biden considers the Russian president a killer in the literal or metaphorical sense.
“He’s not going to hold back in direct contact [with Russia]. He won’t hold back in public statements,” Psaki said.
Asked to comment on the Russian ambassador’s call to Moscow, the spokeswoman said the Biden administration “intends to take a different approach to relations with Russia than the previous administration.”
“We will be forthright and specific in areas where we will have concerns,” she added.
The Biden administration has expressed interest in working with Moscow on areas of mutual interest, such as a new nuclear weapons treaty or climate change mitigation.
However, Biden had previously ordered the release of a declassified version of a Russian intelligence finding that “Russian state media, trolls and online intermediaries, including those directed by Russian intelligence, have published disparaging material about President Biden, his family and the Democratic Party… including material about his son.”
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence report, Russia and Iran have made broader efforts to undermine public confidence in the election.
The U.S. government on Wednesday also announced new sanctions against Russia for using chemical weapons against dissidents. The Commerce Department announced it was blocking exports of goods controlled on national security grounds.
In the previous four years, Putin had a friendlier relationship with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. During his presidency, Trump frequently praised Putin and rejected the intelligence community’s findings that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election.