The Russian Federation summoned the United States Ambassador to deliver a formal warning to Washington over aggressively-worded rhetoric utilized by President Joe Biden towards his counterpart Vladimir Putin.
On March 21, Russia Today stated the Foreign Ministry had summoned Ambassador John Sullivan where he was handed a “note of protest” regarding statements Joe Biden made characterizing President Putin as a “murderous dictator,” a “pure thug,” and a “war criminal.”
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A Russian-language statement released March 21 on the Foreign Ministry’s website read, “It was stressed that such statements of the US President, which are unworthy of such a high-ranking statesman, put the US-Russian relations on the verge of rupture. It was warned that the hostile actions taken against Russia will be firmly and resolutely rebuffed.”
On March 16, Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich posted footage of a 45 second video at an event where, when President Biden was originally asked if he was ready to call Putin a war criminal, he at first said “no” and walked away.
A few seconds later, Biden then returned to the same reporter to state, “Oh, I think he is a war criminal.”
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Just one day later on Saint Patrick’s Day, while speaking at the Friends of Ireland luncheon organized by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Biden clearly referred to Putin as a “murderous dictator, a pure thug,” as reported by Associated Press.
A sharp position
On March 18, Russian state media outlet TASS quoted Presidential Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as stating Biden’s comments constituted “a personal insult” against Putin, but at the time showed forgiveness towards the comments, albeit in a backhanded manner.
“Bearing in mind Mr. Biden’s irritability, fatigue and forgetfulness, which eventually results in aggressive statements, we will possibly prefer to refrain from making any strong comments so as not to trigger more aggression,” said Peskov.
Biden’s comments were perhaps ominously timed. Exactly one year prior on Saint Patrick’s Day of 2021, Biden called Putin a “killer” during an interview with ABC News following an arguably spurious report released by the U.S. intelligence community assessing foreign interference in the 2020 Presidential Election as attributable not to the Chinese Communist Party, but to Russia.
When Biden was asked by George Stephanopolous “So what price must he [Putin] pay?” for the alleged interference, the President replied, “The price he’s gonna pay we’ll– you’ll see shortly…He’s been — they’ve done some mischievous things, to say the least. And so we’re gonna have — I’m not gonna announce what I’m doing, but he’s gonna understand that…it’s not free.”
In response, Russia immediately recalled its Ambassador to the United States, stating, “The current situation is a result of the deliberate policy of Washington that during the past years was making steps to bring — in essence, intentionally — our bilateral interaction into a deadlock.”
One day later, Putin responded to Biden’s statements via TASS, where he stated, “As far as statements by my U.S. counterpart are concerned. What would I say to him in response? I would tell him: ‘Be healthy!’ I wish him good health.”
TASS clarified that Putin “meant what he was saying without a pinch of irony.” Putin then challenged Joe Biden to a live debate without any delays.
A cold response
In the face of the summons of John Sullivan, the U.S. State Department was unflinching. During a March 21 readout of comments to the press, Department Spokesperson Ned Price continued to characterize Russia’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine as an “unrelenting and coldblooded bombardment of Ukraine, causing death and destruction.”
Price then stated that Sullivan had turned the tables on his Russian counterparts and “took advantage of this encounter to demand that the Russian Government follow international law, and basic human decency for that matter, and allow consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention.”
When pressed by reporters as to whether Ambassador Sullivan had used the “opportunity to raise the situation in Ukraine at all,” Price was evasive, stating, “But if you listen to the Russians, they had a message that they wanted to convey. We too have a message that Ambassador Sullivan was very direct in conveying.”
Price went on to say that although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “have given their version of events,” that because Russia is “carrying out an unprovoked and an unjustified war on Ukraine” and that, based on “evidence” that “they are intentionally targeting civilians and committing indiscriminate attacks,” that Biden’s comments were justified.
“President Biden’s comments last week, the comments that were later echoed by Secretary Blinken and others, they speak to the horror of the brutality Russia has unleashed on an innocent neighbor.”
Price further characterized Ukraine as “an innocent neighbor that posed absolutely no threat or security risk to Russia,” despite the Russian Federation’s stated concerns over issues such as the 2014 U.S.-backed coup d’etat, repeated attacks on the primarily Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Eastern Ukraine, and NATO’s gradual expansion towards Russia’s Western border.