Biden: Putin Soulless

US security personnel and Ukrainian soldiers stand near an armoured personnel carrier (APC) during Vice President's visit at the Boryspil airport in Kiev on April 21, 2014.

Photograph by Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

US security personnel and Ukrainian soldiers stand near an armoured personnel carrier (APC) during Vice President’s visit at the Boryspil airport in Kiev on April 21, 2014.

Former President George W. Bush famously looked Vladimir Putin in the eyes and saw his soul. He said so.

Vice President Joe Biden says he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw nothing.

He says he told him so.

“I said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.’ ” Biden said, in recounting the 2011 meeting at the Kremlin for Evan Osnos of The New Yorker, reporting the encounter in a rollicking profile of “the full Biden.”

“You said that?” Osnos reports asking Biden in a tale of a vice president unplugged.

“Absolutely, positively,” Biden told Osnos, adding: “And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’

“This is who this guy is!” Biden said of Putin.

The report arrives in the midst of an escalating crisis in the Ukraine, as the Russian president is being pressed by American, British and other leaders to account for the downing of a Malaysian airliner with surface-to-air missiles over Ukraine territory where Russian-backed separatists have been shooting down military aircraft.

Putin has been called a number of things since the shooting — “a thug,” in the words of Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. But soulless?

Only Biden, it seems, could boast of an absence of diplomacy of this magnitude.

It was Bush, who after meeting Putin in 2001 reported: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

Among the many things American and European leaders are calling Putin today, trustworthy is not one of the qualities.

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