President Joe Biden called Russian president Vladimir Putin a “killer” in an ABC News interview that aired Wednesday morning and pledged that his administration would force Putin to “pay a price” for alleged election interference.
The wide-ranging interview addressed a number of ongoing issues within the Biden administration, including concerns that the White House is encouraging illegal immigration along the United States-Mexico border by openly criticizing the Trump administration’s approach to the issue, and whether Biden supports “reforming” the filibuster.
But Biden was also asked about a Tuesday report from The New York Times noting that U.S. intelligence officials believe Putin authorized “extensive efforts to hurt the candidacy of Joseph R. Biden Jr. during the election last year, including by mounting covert operations to influence people close to President Donald J. Trump, according to a declassified intelligence report.”
The report did not name any specific Trump operatives but did seem to implicate Rudy Giuliani, who served as one of the former president’s chief legal advisors following his November election loss, and it noted that, while Russia and other countries often at odds with the United States on policy — including Iran and China — did not make an effort to change or alter ballots or ballot collection, they did seek to undermine American perceptions of the electoral process.
Biden claims that he specifically warned Putin, in a call earlier in his presidency, that there would be a White House response if the allegations of voter manipulation were proved true.
“He will pay a price,” Biden told ABC. “We had a long talk, he and I, and relatively well. And the conversation started — ‘I know you and you know me. If I establish this occurred, be prepared.'”
CNN notes that Biden did, reportedly, confront Putin on “a number of issues, including Moscow’s interference in the 2020 US presidential elections, the massive Solarwinds cyberattack, the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and reports of Russian bounties on American troops serving in Afghanistan.”
As with many of his answers, Biden was not specific in what reprisals Putin might face. CNN notes that the “Biden administration is expected to announce sanctions related to election interference as soon as next week,” according to “three US State Department official” but those officials “did not disclose any details related to the expected sanctions but said that they will target multiple countries including Russia, China, and Iran.”
Biden was then asked whether he believed Putin was a “killer,” to which he replied yes, and redirected the interview back to the “price” Putin will pay, except tempering the idea of serious punishment by suggesting that the White House response is designed to promote a partnership with the Kremlin.
“The price he’s going to pay, well, you’ll see shortly,” Biden continued. “There are places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together. That’s why I renewed the START agreement with him. That occurred while he’s doing this, but that’s overwhelmingly in the interest of humanity that we diminish the prospect of a nuclear exchange.”