Joe Biden and Putin: Five Takeaways

Read below for five takeaways from Biden’s phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

1. Biden’s feelings toward Trump might not be what it seems. Former Vice President Joe Biden put it bluntly to Putin’s phone call: He doesn’t approve of Trump.

There was a time when it wasn’t entirely unthinkable that Biden would seek the presidency in 2020, but the fact that he dialed Trump’s counterpart almost 20 years his junior suggests to us his ambitions have changed. Biden’s deal-brokering meeting with the current president has not gone well for him (reportedly threatened by Trump), and it’s unclear how easily he could run with Trump on the ticket, regardless of their partisanship.

Putin was, of course, impressed. When Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, called the conversation “candid and cordial,” Biden needed to do more to prove he actually meant it.

Biden’s low poll numbers notwithstanding, he is still a popular figure in the Democratic Party. They’ll give him another chance if he wants it. So after giving in to Trump in Helsinki, Biden will have to work to prove he really is just an honorable man who was only trying to do what he thought was right.

This is just the latest act by a former vice president who doesn’t want to go out as an also-ran.

2. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo helped Biden reach out to Putin. Trump’s secretary of state personally encouraged Biden to meet Putin.

If Pompeo really thinks this is a good idea, and he did, he could run for office some day and raise a ton of money. But if the point of Biden, who has said he intends to stay out of politics, is to help “the underdogs,” the chances of him becoming senator from Maryland or governor of Rhode Island look slim.

3. Biden has the support of former Secretary of State John Kerry. This provides a bit of a problem for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as Kerry has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics.

Kerry joined most liberal Democrats in their criticism of the joint statement from NATO allies, which Trump characterized as a “sellout.”

Biden says he was simply defending a position supported by Kerry. After much negotiating, it was decided the statement did include “full defense of Article 5,” but not so full a defense that the president wouldn’t feel comfortable sending troops to Estonia and Poland without the support of America’s closest allies.

This is why you have to hope, for the sake of America, that State Department veteran Pompeo would step up and try to handle the situation better.

4. Putin likes it when the US does its talking. Biden’s career in politics has probably been worth decades of conversation with friendly Russian officials. We can’t all be Joe Lieberman.

“The US has no obligation to give verbal guarantees but Biden suggested in his call with Putin that the US supports the idea of US dollars entering Russian territories without asking the question about sovereignty,” said the officials who were present.

Putin, the officials say, was “very happy” with this.

5. Biden might not want to be a candidate, but he’s a public figure who knows how to work the system. One idea Biden floated was to put together an “Op-Ed Committee” of Democratic heavyweights to push back against Trump, but he needed help.

“As you can imagine, a PR person at a strategic level wasn’t going to be able to strike this,” said the officials, “but I actually hope Trump thinks it’s a great idea.”

On a more personal level, one of the most interesting things to come out of the conversation was Biden calling for a congressional commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election. “We’ve got to get to the bottom of it. There’s something going on.”

Anything to get anyone in Congress to take the nonstop Trump bashing seriously, right?

by Jon Vanhulle

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