OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Joe Biden has called President Vladimir Putin a “killer,” and in response, Putin wants to have a live debate with Biden.
Putin was made aware of the comment by Biden on an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, and had something to say about it on Russian state television.
According to ABC News, Putin wants the debate to take place as soon as Friday.
“I want to propose to President Biden to continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it basically live, as it’s called. Without any delays and directly in an open, direct discussion. It seems to me that would be interesting for the people of Russia and for the people of the United States.”
“I don’t want to put this off for long. I want to go to the taiga this weekend to relax a little. So we could do it tomorrow or Monday. We are ready at any time convenient for the American side.”
“You know, I remember, in childhood, when we were arguing with each other in the courtyard, we would say, ‘I know you are, but what am I?’ and that’s no accident. It’s not just a childish saying. There is a very deep meaning in that.”
Biden didn’t comment directly, instead preferring to send Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Psaki, in her now-typical fashion, said she would “get back to” reporters asking questions about the issues.
“I’ll have to get back to you if that is something we’re entertaining. I would say that the president already had a conversation with President Putin. The president, of course, will be in Georgia tomorrow and quite busy.”
The Russian government in response to the recent comment by Biden, and also to ongoing allegations that Russia interfered in US elections, has also recalled its ambassador from the US.
BREAKING: Russian President Vladimir Putin has challenged President Biden to a live debate -ABC
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) March 18, 2021
“I would say to him: I wish you good health,” Putin said of Biden. “I say that without irony and not as a joke.”
But history has shown what has happened to people who cross the Russian president and good health is not generally one of those things.
The Russians, and particularly Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, are demanding an apology for the things that Biden said.
Peskov said Biden’s words were a “very bad statement by the U.S. president’ that made it clear that ‘he doesn’t want to normalize relations.”
“He clearly does not want to improve relations with our country, and we will be proceeding based precisely on this,” he said to reporters on a conference call on Thursday. “There hasn’t been anything like this in history.”
Putin was furious after Biden told ABC News that he believes that the Russian president is a killer and he responded by insinuating that Biden is a killer.
“I remember, in my childhood, when we argued in the courtyard, we used to say: ‘It takes one to know one.’ And that’s not a coincidence, not just a children’s saying or joke.
“We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are. And, as a result, we assess [a person’s] activities and give assessments.
“As he [Biden] said, we know each other personally. What would I reply to him? I would say: I wish you health. I wish you health. I say that without any irony or joke,” he said in his remarks.
Russia also recalled its ambassador Anatoly Antonov from the Washington DC embassy, saying “certain ill-considered statements of high-ranking US officials have put the already excessively confrontational relations under the threat of collapse”.
Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s upper house, said that removing their ambassador was a wise step and it may not be the last.
“I suspect it will not be the last one if no explanation or apology follows from the American side,” he said.
“This kind of assessment is not allowed from the mouth of a statesman of such a rank. This kind of statement is not acceptable under any circumstances,’ he said.
The comments come after the White House has spent weeks telegraphing a tougher posture toward Russia under a Biden administration – and Moscow has once again bristled at accusations that it serves as a ‘malign’ influence in global affairs.
‘Our administration is going to take a different approach in our relationship to Russia than the prior administration,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in her briefing on Wednesday, pointing to Biden’s comments in the interview with ABC News.
Fueling the rising tensions is a startling new assessment by U.S. intelligence that lays out Russia’s campaign to influence the 2020 elections – on the heels of the Treasury Department slapping sanctions on officials as retaliation for the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny with a chemical agent. Among those hit with sanctions was the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the FSB.
And the comments mark the latest time when the new Biden team has sought to draw a sharp line on Russia distinguishing it from former President Donald Trump – who repeatedly praised Putin and even appeared to take Putin’s side when he denied allegations of election interference during their infamous summit in Helsinki.