President Clinton meets with President Putin in Brussels, June, 2000
DEMOCRATIC White House hopeful Hillary Clinton joked Sunday Russian President Vladimir Putin, as an ex-KGB agent, had no soul, in the latest swipe at Russia from the 2008 campaign trail.
The former first lady mused on the Russian leader’s spiritual chemistry as she savaged President George W. Bush here for his tactic of trying to forge warm personal bonds with foreign leaders.
“This is the president that looked into the soul of Putin, I could have told him, he was a KGB agent, by definition he doesn’t have a soul, I mean this is a waste of time, right, this is nonsense,” Clinton said at a campaign rally.
Clinton, battling rival Barack Obama ahead of tomorrow’s New Hampshire primary, complained Bush had put too much emphasis on forging personal relationships with foreign leaders.
“I just don’t think that’s the way a great country engages in diplomacy. Yes, you might have good relationships, but most leaders are not going to make decisions based on their personal relationships,” she said.
Bush famously said after his first meeting with Putin in 2001 that he had looked in Putin’s eyes and got “a sense of his soul” – a remark still used by the president’s critics to ridicule his foreign policy.
Since then, US-Russia relations have soured markedly with Washington concerned about what it sees as rollbacks of democracy and basic freedoms, and belligerence by the Kremlin on the world stage.
Clinton’s remarks were a variation on a refrain used by Republican presidential candidate John McCain who has several times lashed Russia on the campaign trail.
“I looked into Putin’s eyes, and I saw three things, a ‘K’ a ‘G’ and a ‘B,”’ McCain says frequently, drawing guffaws from his audiences.