Putin a ‘rational actor’ – Biden
Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “rational actor who has miscalculated significantly” with regard to the Ukraine conflict, US President Joe Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview on Tuesday.
However, while Biden acknowledged that Putin might be governed by reason, he described the Russian president’s aims in Ukraine as “irrational.” Putin’s purported objective to be “the leader of Russia that united all of Russian speakers” was absurd, Biden suggested.
“I think he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kiev, and that he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just totally miscalculated,” the US president said.
The heads of what were then the independent Donbass republics with capitals in Donetsk and Lugansk sought help from Moscow in repelling the Ukrainian Armed Forces immediately before Russia launched its military operation in the country in February. Both regions had been shelled by Kiev since declaring independence in 2014, incurring heavy civilian casualties despite the signing of the Minsk agreement in 2015 that was supposed to end the violence.
Biden and Putin, who have not spoken since before Russia’s military operation in Ukraine began, will both be present at the G20 summit in Bali next month. The US president has not completely ruled out a meeting with his Russian counterpart, declaring last week that it “remains to be seen” whether the pair will sit down together.
“It would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about,” Biden told CNN. The US leader indicated his readiness to discuss the fate of American basketball player Brittney Griner jailed in Russia on drug charges, but otherwise does not see “any rationale to meet with [Putin] now.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Kremlin would consider a meeting, but had not received a proposal from Washington.
Biden choosing the comparatively benign “rational actor” to describe his Russian counterpart is a significant change in rhetoric, as he previously preferred to use words like “killer,” “pure thug,” “murderous dictator” and “war criminal”. Lavrov told Russian media on Tuesday that the US was “already beginning to understand that they are going further than they intended” regarding its involvement in the Ukrainian conflict.
However, Biden the same day reiterated his pledge of “unwavering commitment to hold Russia accountable for its war and support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”