Vice President Joe Biden has a simple explanation for why things in the Ukraine are coming apart–and why Russia seems hellbent on restoring its cold war status as No. 1 menace to freedom and the West. Biden believes that Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, has no soul–according to an article published online by The New Yorker. The magazine relates a story in which the vice-president, on a trip to Russia in 2011, makes a now prescient-seeming discovery. “I said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.’ He looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.'” (George W. Bush–you may remember–had a very different impression of the former-KGB-boss-turned-president.)
Biden’s assessment looks as right as 20/20 hindsight now, as the world considers the idea of Putin as rogue despot in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy last week. The US has stated that the plane was likely shot down by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, with surface-to-air missiles provided by Russia. Mr. Putin has yet to confirm or deny this. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) took a more secular (though just as blunt) approach yesterday, calling for Putin to “man up” and explain Russia’s role in the tragedy, which killed 298 people.