“Obama was very dismissive toward the Russians, calling them a regional power; they didn’t want to think about Russia too much,” she said. “But the world has changed completely. Biden can’t do Obama 2.0. They are going to have to think differently.”
Mr. Putin’s message to Mr. Biden betrayed no hostility and, in the words of the Kremlin, “expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today.”
Mr. Biden has a limited but contentious personal history with Mr. Putin, whom he has met only once, during a trip to Moscow in 2011, when Mr. Putin was prime minister. After a long and “argumentative” official meeting, as Mr. Biden recalls it in a memoir, he joined Mr. Putin in his office for a private conversation.
“Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes,” Mr. Biden remembers telling him with a smile, a nod to former President George W. Bush’s infamous claim to have done the same and seen his“soul.”
“I don’t think you have a soul,” Mr. Biden says he told Mr. Putin. The Russian leader sounded something less than offended, replying, also with a smile, “We understand each other.”
Michael A. McFaul, a former American ambassador to Moscow, recalled that trip and said Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin had a “sharp exchange of differences” about Russia’s approach to the surrounding region, particularly the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.
“We went from that meeting at the prime minister’s office to his next meeting with the Russian opposition,” Mr. McFaul said. “He had no qualms about that at all. He made news there when he said, ‘I told Putin he shouldn’t run for a third term.’”