Joe Biden said the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will face consequences for directing efforts to swing the 2020 US presidential election to Donald Trump, and that they would come soon.
“He will pay a price,” Biden told ABC News in an interview that aired on Wednesday morning.
Asked by the Good Morning America anchor George Stephanopoulos what the consequences would be, he said: “You’ll see shortly.”
Biden’s comments come after a US declassified intelligence report on Tuesday bolstered longstanding allegations that Putin was behind Moscow’s election interference, by proliferating “misleading or unsubstantiated allegations” largely designed to denigrate Joe Biden and boost Trump’s re-election, some fed through allies of Trump.
The assessment was contained in a 15-page report published by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday afternoon.
It underscored allegations that Trump’s allies played into Moscow’s hands by amplifying claims against Biden by Ukrainian figures with links to Russia.
In a statement, the Democratic House intelligence chair, Adam Schiff, said: “Through proxies, Russia ran a successful intelligence operation that penetrated [Trump’s] inner circle.
Russia called the findings baseless.
At the same time, Biden noted that the US and Russia can “walk and chew gum” at the same time.
“There’s places where it’s in our mutual interest to work together” such as renewing the Start nuclear agreement, he said.
On agreeing a New Start pact (which limits each country’s deployed strategic arsenal to 1,550 warheads each) Biden and his close aides have signaled they are interested in extending the treaty, and that would be technically feasible even in the very limited time remaining, as extension requires only an exchange of notes between Washington and Moscow.
Russia has indicated its readiness to extend but there is still the question of how long for.
Biden’s team will also have to decide how to balance New Start extension with a desire to take a tougher line with Moscow on election interference in both 2016 and 2020, and other issues, particularly its recent cyber-attacks on US institutions.
Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, said: “Within the first 100 or 200 days of the administration, the US and Russia should resume strategic stability talks that would hopefully cover a wide range of topics and help to set the stage for more formal negotiations.”
Biden pointed out the significance of he and Putin having a known history of acquaintance.
“I know him relatively well,” Biden said, adding that “the most important thing dealing with foreign leaders in my experience … is just know the other guy.”
Of Putin, Biden said he does not think the Russian leader has a soul. Biden reiterated what was an old comment, saying in the ABC interview that in response to the former Republican president George W Bush’s comment that he had looked into Putin’s eyes and seen his soul, Biden had noted at the time that he had done the same and told the Russian president to his face that he thought he did not have a soul.
“I did say that to him, yes. And his response was ‘we understand one another’,” Biden said, adding: “I wasn’t being a wise guy, I was alone with him in his office, that’s how it came about.”
Asked by Stephanopoulos if he thought Putin was a killer, Biden responded in the affirmative: “Mmm hmm, yes I do.”
Meanwhile, Biden said that it would be “tough” for the US to meet a 1 May deadline set by Trump to withdraw troops from Afghanistan but that the complete drawdown would not take much longer.
The deadline to end America’s longest war six weeks from now was set under an agreement reached by Trump and the Taliban, without the buy-in of the Afghan government.
Biden said he was consulting with allies on the pace of the drawdown. Of meeting the 1 May deadline, he said it “could happen, but it is tough”. If the deadline is extended, he added, it won’t be by “a lot longer”.
Biden, like his predecessor, has promised to end the nearly 20-year conflict and bring home more than 2,500 American troops in the country – down from about 13,000 troops a year ago.
The Trump deal caught some American allies off guard, as the roughly 7,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan rely on the US for logistics and security support.
“That was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president, the former president worked out,” Biden said in the interview.
He added: “We’re in consultation with our allies as well as the government, and that decision is in process now.”