Biden and Putin praise summit, discord remains

Friday, June 18th, 2021 00:00 |
Russian President Vladmir Putin. Photo/PD/FILE

Geneva, Thursday

US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had an hours-long summit on Wednesday at a lakeside villa in the Swiss city of Geneva, the two leaders’ first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January and perhaps the most-watched part of Biden’s European tour.

The summit came at a time when the international community largely agrees that the US-Russia relations are at their lowest point in years, with the two sides deeply at odds over a list of things, ranging from alleged election interference and cyberattacks to human rights and regional conflicts.

At two solo press conferences, Putin described the summit as “constructive” while Biden said the tone of the meeting was “positive.” 

Nevertheless, disagreement still prevailed as the two leaders laid out their respective views on specific issues.

As widely predicted, the summit produced limited results, including a joint statement on strategic stability.

Experts prefer to regard the meeting as an effort to prevent the confrontation from further escalation, not as a “reset” in bilateral relations.

Expanded meeting

Biden and Putin first had a smaller meeting lasting about 90 minutes and then an expanded meeting of more than an hour with five officials on each side.

The two leaders then held separate press conferences, unlike three years ago when Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump met journalists together with Putin following their summit.

At his press conference, which came before that of Biden, Putin said that their conversations were “constructive” and had “no hostility,” with an “enabling” atmosphere, while calling Biden “a seasoned politician.” Putin also said there were “glimpses of confidence and hope.”

Reiterating that the United States and Russia must create a “stable” and “predictable” relationship, Biden, in his press conference that followed, described the tone of the meetings as “good, positive”. “There wasn’t any strident action taken,” he added.

Strategic stability

The United States and Russia released a joint statement on strategic stability following the summit.

The statement said that the two heads of state noted that the two countries “have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.” 

“The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control.

Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” the statement said, adding that both countries will embark on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future.

Putin also told reporters that the US and Russian ambassadors will return to their diplomatic posts and both countries will begin consultations on cybersecurity.

At their respective press sessions, the two heads of the state clarified their stances, often sharply divided, on some specific issues, including Ukraine and human rights.  - Xinhua

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