Joe Biden Told Putin He Had No 'Soul' During Odd Kremlin Visit in 2011

Ten years ago, Joe Biden met with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, where the then-vice president said he looked into the Russian leader's eyes and told him, "I don't think you have a soul."

Biden is set to meet with Putin on Wednesday for talks that the White House has vaguely described as a discussion of a "full range of pressing issues as we seek to restore predictability and stability" to U.S.-Russia relations. But in 2011, a bizarre close-encounter exchange between the two included intense eye contact, a lengthy handshake and an apparent feeling of mutual understanding. In a New Yorker interview in 2014, Biden described how personality is a factor during meetings with foreign leaders.

But when asked this week by NBC News about the intense meeting with Biden, Putin said he did not recall it.

Biden told The New Yorker "I had an interpreter, and when he was showing me his office I said, 'It's amazing what capitalism will do, won't it? A magnificent office!' And he laughed. As I turned, I was this close to him." Biden held his hand a few inches from his nose. "I said, 'Mr. Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul.'"

Asked whether that was a "movie line," Biden replied, "Absolutely, positively. And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, 'We understand one another.' This is who this guy is!"

Speaking to NBC News, the Russian president remained coy about the exchange.

"President Biden says one time when you met you were inches away from each other, close to each other. And he said to you, 'I'm looking into your eyes, and I can't see each a soul,'" NBC News international correspondent Keir Simmons told Putin, in the Russian leader's first U.S. broadcast interview in three years. "And you said, 'We understand each other.' Do you remember that exchange?"

"I don't remember this particular part of our conversation, to be honest with you, but he probably has a good memory," Putin replied with a smirk.

Biden's upcoming meeting with Putin has been criticized by his Republican critics, many of whom say it shouldn't occur at all because of tensions between the two nations and fears the Democratic president will look weak. But other GOP and Democratic lawmakers hope to see Biden press Putin on the construction of Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, as well as his alleged role in the deaths of political rivals.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment on Biden's 2011 exchange with Putin but did not hear back before publication.

vladimir putin joe biden 2011
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Vice President Joe Biden meet on March 10, 2011, with their delegations in Moscow. RIA-NOVOSTI - Pool /AFP/Getty Images