Few pundits viewed the election of Joe Biden as a sign that relations between the US and Russia would get friendlier.

Asked if he thought Mr Putin was a “killer”, Mr Biden replied, “Mhmm. Yes, I do.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a concert.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a concert. (AP)

World leaders are rarely so direct and so strong in their criticism of their foreign opponents, especially during peacetime.

But Australian National University political science lecturer Charles Miller was not surprised by Mr Biden’s rhetoric.

“I’m not very surprised at all by what’s happened between Biden and Putin, because it’s quite clear the Russians interfered in the US election to get Trump elected,” he told nine.com.au.

“The Democrats are very, very angry.”

The heated relationship between Russia and the US cooled following the end of the Cold War, but began to deteriorate when the Bush administration started putting more missiles in countries around Russia.

“Some people would claim when that’s really when the relationship stated to decline,” Dr Miller said.

“Others would say Putin has been anti-American all along.”

Joe Biden said he thought Vladimir Putin was a 'killer'.
Joe Biden said he thought Vladimir Putin was a ‘killer’. (AP)

But it would be difficult for tensions to escalate between the two countries, simply because there’s not many ways to step up a conflict.

The US could expel Russian diplomats from the embassy in Washington, DC, or step up economic sanctions.

But the US and Russia don’t do much trade with each other, meaning it is harder to hit their hip pocket.

A real escalation would be one Mr Putin might be unwilling to take.

“Russia’s goals are to re-establish Russian dominance over what was the Soviet Union,” Dr Miller said.

“Russia’s military power is not what it was in the Soviet Union, but is much better than what it was in the late 1990s.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AP)

Mr Putin has already moved into Russian-speaking territory in Georgia and Ukraine, but his eyes may move north to Estonia.

The US cried foul when Russia’s military interfered in Ukraine and Georgia, but they didn’t get their own troops involved.

But if Mr Putin makes a move on the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, then the US would have no choice because of their NATO commitments.

“If Russia were to attack them militarily, the US would be treaty-bound to go to war,” Dr Miller said.

If Mr Putin’s response to Mr Biden’s remarks were any indication, there’s not much sign of the Kremlin looking to escalate the tensions.

Vladimir Putin has wished Joe Biden 'good health' after the US president called him a 'killer'.
Vladimir Putin has wished Joe Biden ‘good health’ after the US president called him a ‘killer’. (AP)

“We really know each other personally. What would I answer him? I would tell him: be healthy,” Mr Putin said.

“I wish him good health. I say this without irony, no jokes.”

US intelligence has ruled Russian launched a misinformation campaign aimed at bolstering Mr Trump and undermining Mr Biden.

Much of that misinformation was built around allegations made against Mr Biden’s son Hunter, of whom the president is devotedly protective.

Joe Biden meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Joe Biden meeting with Vladimir Putin. (AP)

But Mr Putin saw the writing on the wall after the election.

“(Mr Putin) seemed to be disowning Trump towards the end. He didn’t support the claims of fraud,” Dr Miller said.

“He’d gotten everything he could out of Trump.”

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The Biden administration is expected to announce sanctions in coming weeks against Russia, as well as Iran and possibly China.

This content first appear on 9news

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