At a solo White House press conference Wednesday, President Joe Biden characterized his three-hour summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a diplomatic win even though nothing concrete happpened in the meeting to lower tensions between the U.S. and Russia going forward.
Biden kept his planned message to Putin tightly under wraps, refusing to answer questions about what they would talk about and what he wanted to accomplish in the meeting.
Afterward, he said that the talk, which was a few hours shorter than planned, was “positive” and “constructive” and that there were minimal hostilities between the two leaders.
“It was important to meet in person so there could be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate. I did what I came to do,” Biden said.
Mutual interest and a warning
Biden also said he laid out areas of mutual interest between the U.S. and Russia, warned the Russian president that the U.S. would punish cyberattacks or other attacks on U.S. allies or interests, and talked about “our country’s priorities and values so he heard it straight from me.”
A joint statement from Biden and Putin said the two nations “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.”
They talked about limits and reduction of nuclear capabilities and reiterated that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” They also talked about the START treaty extension, which limits the number of missiles and bombers that can be deployed by each country.
“I feel good about it,” Biden told reporters about the meeting as he left Geneva.
Meeting logistics betray lack of confidence
Despite Biden’s words, the logistics of the meeting gave a different picture of the meeting and betrayed a lack of confidence.
The meet was tightly controlled, right down to the solo press conference, which prevented a rapidly deteriorating Biden from having to stand next to a vigorous Putin.
It appears that the meeting was not a complete disaster, but Putin might have only been humoring Biden to get what he wanted out of things, as other world leaders also seem to be doing.
Biden made many mistakes during the G7 and NATO summits, including admonishing Boris Johnson for not introducing the South African president when he actually had done so.