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Putin: Relationship with U.S. has ‘deteriorated to its lowest point’ in years

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a new interview, said Russia’s relationship with the United States has “deteriorated to its lowest point” in recent years, while noting that President Joe Biden is “radically different” from his predecessor.

“We have a bilateral relationship that has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin told NBC News’ Keir Simmons, in a preview that aired Friday night.

When asked how he compares Biden to former President Donald Trump, Putin started by praising Trump as an “extraordinary, talented individual,” and someone who didn’t come from the standard U.S. political establishment.

Biden on the other hand, Putin said, is a “career man.”

“He’s spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics. Just think of the number of years he spent in the Senate. A different kind of person,” Putin said. “It is my great hope that yes, there are some advantages. Some disadvantages. But there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting U.S. president.”

Biden and Putin are scheduled to meet face-to-face on June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland. The summit will take place at the end of Biden’s broader visit to Europe where he’s meeting with America’s allies in NATO and the European Union, giving the president a chance to listen to the concerns of other leaders ahead of the meeting with Putin.

Putin’s last meeting with a U.S. president was in Helsinki with Trump in 2018, where Trump at the time appeared to accept the Russian president’s assurances that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections.

Next week’s summit comes as the two countries remain at odds on a number of issues such as cybersecurity and Russia’s war with U.S.-backed Ukraine. Biden didn’t shy away from addressing these tension points in a speech at the Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall earlier this week, where he made clear his goals to restore relationships with allies across the globe.

“We’re committed to leading with strength, defending our values, delivering for our people,” Biden said. “America is better positioned to advance our national security and economic prosperity when we bring together like-minded nations to stand with us.”

Biden said that he was meeting with Putin next week to “let him know what I want him to know.”

The White House has tried to lower the bar for the meeting, leading with the message that it’s more about communication and less about deliverables.

“Even with adversarial relationships, as we have with President Putin, it’s important to have that face-to face diplomacy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on CNN Friday. “For the president to have that opportunity to be direct, to be candid, to be clear about what the consequences will be.”

When pressed on if Biden will address Putin’s prosecution of opposition figures such as Alexei Navalny — a topic Putin’s spokesperson told CNN was not on the meeting’s agenda — Psaki said the president has every intention of broaching the subject.

“It may not be on [Putin’s] agenda, and that’s not a surprise,” Psaki said. “But certainly the president has every intention to raise human rights abuses, the jailing of dissidents and activists, which is a violation of what we feel should be norms around the world.”

In Friday’s interview, Putin dodged when asked directly whether or not he has killed political adversaries, like former ally Mikhail Lesin, telling Simmons that he’s heard “dozens of such accusations.” When pushed for an answer, Putin said he “liked Lesin very much,” and that he died in the United States. “You’ve mentioned many individuals who indeed suffered and perished at different points in time for various reasons at the hands of different individuals,” he said.

The Russian president was also pressed on reports that his country has offered to supply Iran with satellite technology to help target the U.S. military in the region. Putin shrugged it off with a phrase familiar to many Americans: “It’s just fake news.”

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