American President Joe Biden’s first encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin was unpleasant. In November 2001, the new Russian president was driven to Capitol Hill after a friendly news conference at the White House with then-US president George W Bush. There, Putin met Biden, then-chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other leading lawmakers.
Things went south quickly when some legislators tried to bring up Russia’s expanding sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Putin pounced.
“It was like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” said Michael Haltzel, who was then Biden’s Europe and Russia specialist and was in the room. “All that sweetness in the Rose Garden, and then it was just viciousness. He was nasty. His eyes were darting left and right. He looked like a cornered animal.”