The lack of any clear concessions from Moscow to warrant a high-profile encounter only raised the level of skepticism amongst Russia experts. Biden also imparted to Putin that the American “values and priorities” rested on core issues like human rights. The President, who is said to be obsessive about getting the details right ahead of any decision, meticulously prepared for his meeting and by not previewing his plans in advance might have avoided setting unrealistic expectations for the summit. Sen. Before arriving in Geneva, Biden diligently guarded his intentions ahead of speaking with Putin. FLICKR
When President Joe Biden arrived at the historic Villa la Garange in Geneva for a much-anticipated meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, he triumphantly proclaimed that he had completed what he set out to do after three hours of behind closed doors talks with the Russian leader. “What Biden demanded of Putin, or maybe better warned him about, are issues that we can’t know now. Deyermond described Biden’s approach as a break from not just Trump’s legacy, but that of other predecessors in the post-Cold War era, all of whom tried and failed to seek a new relationship with Russia. In his own words, Biden said “we’ve established a clear basis on how we intend to deal with Russia and the US-Russia relationship.”
For all his impassioned rhetoric, Biden did not walk away from the summit with many concrete commitments or concessions from Russia. She cautions, however, that the road ahead will remain difficult given the still poor state of US-Russia relations, but the outcome in Geneva should be seen as a good first step. Putin spoke almost endearingly about his meeting with Biden, who he described as an experienced statesman and went so far as to say they “spoke the same language”. Jim Risch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said summits are about “delivering results” and Biden’s inability to secure more from Putin made the affair “unfortunate and disappointing.” I
n a separate statement, three GOP senators said Biden is sending a signal of “weakness and appeasement” for the summit, particularly after he granted a waiver from US sanctions was granted by his administration for the soon-to-be-completed Nord Stream-2 pipeline. On other topics like cybersecurity, Ukraine, and Syria, the main outcome was a commitment to renew contacts between Washington and Moscow on these issues. The summit is also taking place in the shadow of former President Donald Trump, who arrived in office with a keen interest in building close relations with Moscow based on his self-perceived personal friendship with Putin. Kremlin critics, in particular, were incensed by Biden’s offer to hold an audience with Putin without the Kremlin offering something in advance. In my view, it’s far better than some aspirational announcement about ‘a reset’,” Saivetz told New Europe. As the leaders of the world’s two preeminent nuclear powers, the meeting lays the groundwork for relations to potentially improve on matters of mutual importance. “Of course, the relationship is so complex and there’s so much friction and mistrust that missteps are going to be inevitable at some point. Biden’s team also paid close attention to the choreography of the encounter by carefully limiting any opportunities for Putin to try and one-up Biden, a trait he is well-known for from his past dealings with other world leaders. This is about self-interest and the verification of self-interest,” Biden told reporters at his press conference. Charlie Stevenson, an adjunct lecturer teaching American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University, said that opting for solo press conferences are “both self-protective and discord limiting” while allowing each side to make their case about a meeting. As large numbers of Russian forces massed along Ukraine’s borders in April, raising fears of a war breaking out, Biden extended an invitation to meet Putin for a summit to discuss their differences. For now, both sides appear to have walked away with some level of satisfaction. Almost immediately, questions were asked about the hastiness of the invitation and if it would imply weakness on the American side amidst tensions over Ukraine, the SolarWinds hack against US government agencies last December, and the imprisonment of Russian oppositionist Alexei Navalny. This, he explained, also narrowed the room for conflict at a time when de-escalation is the goal. Saivetz added that denying Putin an appearance alongside Biden served to constrain the sense of legitimacy that she said he craves. Any assessment of the outcome, according to Biden, should be judged in the long term and by how relations with Russia proceed based on immediate deliverables. From the start, Biden’s decision to sit down with Putin was met with quite a few raised eyebrows. Putin announced that a return of ambassadors would begin at an undetermined point and the two agreed to establish a new Strategic Stability Dialogue on nuclear arms control. By giving Putin this summit, Browder believes that Biden is elevating him “to a level of authority and respectability among his own supporters that is a gift to him that he shouldn’t be getting.”
Garry Kasparov – another prominent critic and a member of the anti-Putin, pro-democracy opposition, who also once ran against the latter to become president of Russia – accused Biden of giving the “credibility of the United States” to a “brutal killer”. In Geneva, President Biden spoke in very blunt terms by characterizing the summit as being about asserting the United States’ self-interests and should not be seen as cozying up to Putin. Carol Saivetz, a senior advisor with the security studies programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said this approach was a better tact to take with Putin than risk over-promising. “This is not about trust. But the Geneva meeting was a step in the right direction.” “Russia and the US need to interact with each other, to try to establish a degree of stability in their relationship and to have clarity about the areas where their interests clash,” Deyermond told New Europe. Ruth Deyermond, a senior lecturer in post-Soviet security at King’s College London, disagrees with characterizations of Biden’s decision to seek an early meeting with Putin as wrongheaded. “It is a big win for Putin,” Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital and a vocal critic of Putin, told Fox News on June 16. The Russian leader echoed Biden’s view on the summit not being about trust, but, quoting the great 19th-century Russian poet Lev Tolstoy, saying that there can be no “family trust in this situation, but we have seen flashes of it.”
Deyermond believed that the summit was a good first impression. In a recent interview, Kasparov added that Biden once called Putin a “killer” not long after his inauguration and that by meeting with him, it was a “sign of weakness.”
Biden’s critics in the Republican Party echoed these arguments as the president made his way back to Washington. US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) in Geneva, Switzerland. Trump also made dramatic and unprecedented moves, including withdrawing from key arms control agreements, decisions Putin directly criticized as pushing relations into a deeper freeze. One important measure that taken to minimize this was conveying to the Russians that there would be no joint press conference for the two leaders as there was in Helsinki. Instead, she believes the choice to meet in Geneva was helpful towards stabilizing relations with Russia, lest it descends lower than the dangerous place it is now. Biden said that the meeting helped the US and Russia to identify areas of common interest where the two adversaries could work together, while at the same time making it clear what the US’ red lines are. Trump openly spurned and publicly insulted the US’ European allies and even undermined his own country’s security by publicly siding with Putin in a now-infamous Helsinki summit press conference in 2018 where Trump said he believed Putin over his own intelligence agencies. By Nicholas Morgan
A New York-based freelance journalist focusing on Russia and Eurasia. Will Navalny live? She explained that the US-Russia relationship has always been slanted towards topics of strategic stability and it is especially important that the presidents are in contact given the state of the relationship as it stands now. From the start of his administration, Biden promised to resist Russian actions that trampled on American interests, while being an advocate for human rights and democracy. Will there be future hacks? style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Did Biden draw a line in the sand with or legitimize Putin in Geneva?