Joe Biden to Vladimir Putin: "I don't think you have a soul"

The vice president claims he told the Russian autocrat to his face that he lacked basic humanity

By Elias Isquith
July 21, 2014 7:16PM (UTC)
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Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) (Associated Press)

More than a decade ago, President George W. Bush claimed that he looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes, got a "sense of his soul," and determined the Russian autocrat and former KGB agent to be a good person.

In a new, long profile in the New Yorker, Vice President Joe Biden claims he had a similar experience with Putin, but reached a polar opposite conclusion.


"I had an interpreter, and when [Putin] was showing me his office I said, 'It's amazing what capitalism will do, won't it? A magnificent office!'" Biden recounted, saying Putin laughed in response.

"As I turned, I was this close to him," Biden continued, indicating the two men were face-to-face. "I said, 'Mr. Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul.'"

According to Biden, Putin smirked and said in response that the two men "understand one another."


While few would deny the drama of Biden's anecdote, however, readers should keep in mind Biden's history of remembering things a bit differently than others.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Foreign Policy George W. Bush Joe Biden New Yorker Russia Vladimir Putin