Fact Check: Joe Biden Claims He Stood Up to Vladimir Putin

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin (Associated Press Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, pool)
Associated Press Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, pool

CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden claims he stood up to Russian President Vladimir Putin when he was in office.

VERDICT: MOSTLY FALSE. The Obama-Biden administration appeased Putin until stunned by the invasion of Ukraine.

Joe Biden told an NBC told an NBC town hall on Monday evening:

I told President Putin exactly what I think of him. He knows it. We looked eye and eye, and we know what’s going on. I made the same assessment to Serbia’s [Slobodan] Milosevic. I had the same kind of conversations across the board. You can look back on all those international meetings I had. You can’t think of a time when I have not handled it properly.

Biden served under President Barack Obama, who appeased Russia for six years until the Obama administration was taken by surprise with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (To this day, the Crimea remains in Russian hands because of that negligence.)

In the course of those six years, the Obama-Biden administration:

  • canceled missile defense plans in Europe, exposing U.S. allies in Eastern Europe to new threats from Russia
  • signed the one-sided “New START” treaty which imposed disproportionate nuclear cuts on the U.S.
  • sought a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia despite evidence of past Russian cheating
  • accepted Russian assurances that Syria had rid itself of its chemical weapons stockpile, which it had not
  • pushed a literal “reset” button with Russia that heralded a new era of closer ties with Putin’s regime

Biden did not push back against these policies. In fact, he carried them out enthusiastically.

Here is one example, from the Obama White House archive, of what Biden told Putin when they met eye-to-eye in 2011:

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. Prime Minister [Putin], in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a real difference between being President and Vice President. The very good news is the President and I agree 100 percent on the need to continue to establish a closer and closer relationship.

That’s why the very first foreign policy annunciation our administration made was when I made the speech in Munich that it was time to push the reset button and change the atmosphere.

I would view the previous eight years — did not take advantage of the opportunities that exist for both our countries. It does not really matter how — it’s in our self-interest and I hope in the self-interest of Russia to have our relationship grow.

Biden fawned all over Putin, who was pulling the strings behind President Dmitry Medvedev until he could return to power.

Biden later claimed that he told Putin that he had “no soul.” But that is Biden’s self-serving recollection of a private conversation. It is similar to what he claimed about his talk with Milosevic: he wrote in his 2007 autobiography, Promises to Keep, that he told the Serbian strongman that he was a “damn war criminal,” but the story could not be fully corroborated.

It is possible that Biden was tougher in private with Putin than he was in public. What the American people saw was that Biden was plainly obsequious to Vladimir Putin — and with nothing positive to show for U.S. foreign policy as a result.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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