Joe Biden's Foreign Policy Strategy Includes Telling Putin He Has No Soul

"And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another,’” Biden said.  

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Summed up in a few words, Vice President Joe Biden's foreign policy approach depends on that (sometimes gaffe-filled) Biden factor. For example, "to illustrate his emphasis on personality as a factor in foreign affairs," during a recent interview with The New Yorker's Evan Osnos, Biden told the story of the time in 2011 when he looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes and “I said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul'... And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’”

The exchange happened during Biden's 2011 trip to Russia, a few years after the administration "reset" relations with Russia, according to The New York Times. During the trip, however, the vice president made things a little tense when he criticized the corruption in the country's legal systems. “Some may say, ‘How can you say these things out loud, Mr. Vice President, and expect to have a better relationship,’ ” he said during a speech at a Moscow university. “They’re necessary to have a good relationship."

Later, Putin changed the tone of the visit by suggesting that the U.S. and Russia void the visa requirement between the two countries. Biden said it was a "good idea" before quickly backtracking. At some point, according to the vice president, he got around to calling Putin soulless.

But while Osnos' profile was mainly about Biden's foreign policy work — particularly his experience with Eastern Europe and how he's influenced President Obama's strategy in the Middle East — it was also about Biden presidential ambitions. “I think Joe would be a superb President,” Obama told Osnos. As for how he would decide to run, Biden said he has four factors to consider: his family, his motivation, his fundraising ability, and whether he actually has a shot or, in his words, “Can you win this thing?” We're not sure if his Putin encounter will hurt or help his chances.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.