Putin thinks Joe Biden is trying to act like a Hollywood tough guy

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Back in March, when President Joe Biden was being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos, he was asked if he thought that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a killer.” Biden’s almost noncommital reply was, “Umm, I do.” That was the sort of fishing expedition question designed to generate a hot headline and drive some clicks and it worked. The Kremlin fired back, with a spokesperson saying that Biden “clearly” didn’t want to work on the relationship and that the current state of relations between the two countries was “very bad.” For his part, Putin still invited Biden to engage in both online talks and an in-person summit.

That summit is approaching quickly, but NBC News is still fanning the flames. In an interview that Putin granted to Keir Simmons, the “killer” line was brought up again. Putin’s response was once again interesting, though I’m unsure how informative it actually is. He seemed to take a swipe at both Biden and American culture in general, but when the interviewer pressed him on the “killer” portion of the statements, he spoke at length but never really got around to denying it. (NY Post)

Ahead of a summit between the two leaders next week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that President Biden’s characterization of him as a “killer” was “not something I worry about in the least” — though he did not reject the description outright.

“Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness and none of it surprises me,” Putin told NBC News correspondent Keir Simmons.

“So, as far as harsh rhetoric, I think that this is an expression of overall U.S. culture,” Putin continued. “Of course, in Hollywood … there are some deep things in Hollywood, macho behavior, which can be treated as cinematic art but that is part of U.S. political culture, where it’s considered normal.

One thing you can say for Vladimir Putin is that his English is quite good. But even as we acknowledge that, some nuances can still be lost in translation. It sort of sounds as if Putin was saying that Biden was engaging in some sort of false bravado or swagger, acting more like a Hollywood cowboy than a real fighter. Or perhaps he was insinuating that all of American culture has been infected by Hollywood images of tough guys and is trying to emulate them. Who can say for sure?

If I have to rush to Joe Biden’s defense here, it’s worth noting that Uncle Joe didn’t just step up to the microphone and blurt out something about Putin being a killer. He was asked that question in a provocative fashion during an interview. And he hasn’t repeated it during this trip. It was once again a case of the media fanning the flames by pitching the question to Putin when he hadn’t brought it up either.

Perhaps more interesting was Putin’s inability to answer the question of whether or not he actually is a killer. If he was an American politician, the answer would have been an automatic and instant negative, insisting that the idea was ludicrous. But Putin really seemed to be pondering it as if he wasn’t sure whether he was going to say yes or no. He insisted that the reporter let him continue with his answer, but he never did get around to saying he wasn’t.

So is Vladimir Putin a killer? Give me a break. The guy was a career KGB agent. Since originally taking power, his critics, both at home and abroad, have had a nasty tendency to have “accidents,” or disappear, or suddenly “fall ill” and drop dead as if they had been given some sort of poison. (Sarcasm intended.) Obviouisly Putin is a killer. And his answer of that being “not something he worries about in the least” was probably an honest assessment. I somehow doubt he loses much sleep over it.

Meanwhile, later during his remarks, Putin described the relations between Russia and America as being at “the lowest point in recent years.” (Politico)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a new interview, said Russia’s relationship with the United States has “deteriorated to its lowest point” in recent years, while noting that President Joe Biden is “radically different” from his predecessor.

“We have a bilateral relationship that has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin told NBC News’ Keir Simmons, in a preview that aired Friday night.

This was the point in the interview where NBC News really got the headline they were fishing for. Simmons asked Putin to contrast Biden and Trump, with Putin obliging him, describing Trump as an “extraordinary, talented individual.” He then described Biden as being a career politician.

This set up NBC with the chance to portray Joe Biden as someone willing to be tough on Russia, contrasting that laughable image with Trump as a Russian stooge or whatever. Of course, Trump dumped sanctions on Russia while Joe Biden is letting the new Russian oil pipeline move forward while shutting down pipeline construction in his own country. So who’s the real “tough guy” in this equation? It might wind up being Joe Biden, but he prefers to play tough with the American oil and gas industry rather than the leader of a country that is arguably our primary adversary on the world stage.

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