US President Joe Biden (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they arrive for Wednesday’s US-Russia summit
A first summit between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart was “constructive”, Vladimir Putin said Wednesday after the talks in Geneva ended.
“The conversation was absolutely constructive”, Putin told reporters, adding that the sides had agreed for their ambassadors to return in a small gesture of healing in their strained relations.
Diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington had all but broken down since Biden took office in January.
Despite tensions, the summit at an elegant villa on the shore of Lake Geneva got off to a good start, with the two leaders shaking hands and striking cautiously positive notes.
He stressed his desire to take US-Russian relations off their increasingly unstable trajectory, in which Washington accuses the Kremlin of everything from meddling in elections to cyberwarfare.
“We are trying to determine where we have a mutual interest, where we can cooperate; and where we don’t, establish a predictable and rational way in which we disagree — two great powers,” Biden said.
At his press conference after the summit, Putin signalled progress in a number of areas, including an agreement to “start consultations on cybersecurity”.
Biden’s apparent offer of a more understanding — if not necessarily a friendly relationship — went a long way toward what Putin is reportedly seeking: increased respect on the world stage.
Expectations were low for anything more than a modest thaw in relations.
The choice of Geneva recalled the Cold War summit between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Swiss city in 1985.
But in contrast with 1985, tensions are less about strategic nuclear weapons and competing ideologies than what the Biden administration sees as an increasingly rogue regime.
Putin came to the summit arguing that Moscow is simply challenging US hegemony — part of a bid to promote a so-called “multi-polar” world that has seen Russia draw close with the US’s arguably even more powerful adversary China.
– ‘Worthy adversary’ –
While in Brussels, he said he would detail his “red lines.”
However, Biden, who had previously characterised Putin as a “killer”, upgraded the Russian leader to “worthy adversary”.
Officials point to the recent extension of the New START nuclear arms limitation treaty as an example of successful diplomacy.
The US side clearly wanted to avoid the optics of having Biden sharing that kind of platform with the Russian president.