President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin will “pay a price” in the wake of a new report from the U.S. intelligence community that concluded the Kremlin interfered in the 2020 White House race.
In a segment from his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that was taped Tuesday and aired Wednesday, Biden said he had told Putin in January — during their first call as foreign counterparts — to expect repercussions for potentially seeking to sway the most recent presidential election.
“We had a long talk, he and I,” Biden said. “I know him relatively well. And the conversation started off, I said, ‘I know you, and you know me. If I establish this occurred, then be prepared.’”
Biden declined to elaborate on the consequences Putin would face, saying that “you’ll see shortly.” But he maintained the U.S. could “walk and chew gum at the same time” with regard to its Russia foreign policy.
“There are places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together,” Biden said, pointing specifically to the two governments’ extension of the New START nuclear nonproliferation treaty in January.
“That occurred while he’s doing this,” Biden said of Putin’s election interference efforts. “But that’s overwhelmingly in the interest of humanity.”
Biden’s remarks come after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified assessment Tuesday which found that Putin authorized “influence operations aimed at denigrating” Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party while “supporting” former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
The influence operations, conducted by various Russian government organizations, also had as their goal “undermining public confidence in the electoral process” and “exacerbating sociopolitical divisions” in the U.S., according to the ODNI assessment.
Russia previously “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” former special counsel Robert Mueller wrote in his March 2019 report.
Biden, who dealt with Putin throughout the Obama administration, has on several occasions recounted a 2011 meeting during which the then-vice president reportedly told the Russian leader: “I don’t think you have a soul.”
“I did say that to him, yes,” Biden told Stephanopoulos in the interview that aired Wednesday. “And his response was, ‘We understand one another.’ I wasn’t being a wise guy. I was alone with him in his office. That’s how it came about.”
“Look, the most important thing in dealing with foreign leaders, in my experience — and I’ve dealt with an awful lot of them over my career — is just know the other guy,” the president added.
Asked by Stephanopoulos whether he thinks Putin “is a killer,” Biden replied: “Mm hmm. I do.”