Memories of Trump’s meetings with Putin are cringe-worthy as he always appeared anxious, obsequious, and insecure. He fawned over him as one does on a first date, trying to impress someone you have a crush on. In comparison, President Biden did America proud in the handling of his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva. After smartly garnering the support of our allies at the G-7 and the NATO summit in Europe, Biden confidently and with dignity met with Putin and accomplished what he intended. ABC news online reported Biden’s intention was “to meet his goal of restoring “stability” and “predictability” to the post-Trump superpower relationship, which both Biden and Putin agreed had reached a “low point.” Both leaders seemed relaxed with each other and reported the meeting had been positive. Putin described Biden as a “very, balanced, professional man,” adjectives that he did not use to describe Donald Trump. Biden described Putin as ” a worthy opponent.”
The media reports Biden has said he did not expect the meeting would convince Putin to change his behavior on issues where they disagreed. Despite this assertion, he called the meeting to begin a dialogue on issues important to American values. Widespread media reporting named the issues Biden committed to raising at the meeting were;
- Human rights, including recent aggression toward Ukraine
- Press freedoms
- Election interference
- Opposition Alexi Navalny
- Prisoner swaps involving two US marines
After the meeting, Biden declared “I did what I came here to do.” One tangible accomplishment was an agreement to return ambassadors from both countries to the posts they were forced to abandon as relations between the countries deteriorated. However, the biggest deliverable was an agreement to continue discussions post-Geneva on all the issues brought to the table by both leaders. Putin benefitted from meeting with Biden by being seen on the world stage with the US President, and Biden benefitted by appearing on the world stage to show Americans, our allies, and Putin he isn’t afraid to be tough on Russia if they interface core in our elections or any aspect of our infrastructure.
In contrast to the Biden agenda with Putin, Trump’s agenda in Helsinki with Putin in 2018 had a narrower scope. Although national security advisor John Bolten was heavily focused on national security issues for the summit, Trump seemed mostly focused on the United States getting along with Putin and Russia and debunking the US Intelligence findings that Russia interfered with within the 2016 presidential election to try to help him get elected. By this point in his presidency, Trump’s primary motivation was to counter the growing narrative that he was not a legitimate president because his victory was aided by Russian interference. Despite the many issues needing attention by the Executive Branch, Trump rallied and whined that the Russia investigation was a witch hunt. Biden’s Geneva performance showed that he is motivated by what is best for America, not what might benefit him politically.
As with many meetings and summits between world leaders, only the passage of time will reveal if any results will occur. Officials from both administrations will be tasked to follow up on whether the dialogues aimed at establishing agreements and compromises happen. The majority of Americans were pleased with how Biden handled himself during and after the meeting with Putin. There was a national sigh of relief that the humiliation of the US presidency has ended.