The Biden and Putin Summit: President Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin met in Geneva for the first summit between the two leaders. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: The Biden and Putin Summit
Yesterday, Swiss President Guy Parmelin welcomed President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin to his landlocked country, ushering them into a lakeside mansion in Geneva. Appearing briefly before cameras, the two leaders shook hands and then entered the not-so-humble abode to engage in roughly five hours of talks. Though it was 87 degrees in Geneva, a chill lingered in the air thanks to a history of tense relations between the two men and the countries they represent.
According to a 2014 New Yorker article, while vice president, Joe Biden allegedly told Putin — who was prime minister at the time — that he “has no soul.” Putin then looked back at Biden, smiled, and said, “We understand one another.” Both men have traded barbs about more recent events as well.
Biden has called out Putin for the increasing frequency of cyberattacks by those who are believed to be state-sponsored Russian-based hackers. The US has also taken issue with Russia’s decision to jail opposition leader Alexei Navalny, claiming the move disregards democratic norms. Putin, on the other hand, thinks the US should take a hard look in the mirror. Pointing to the January 6 Capitol riot, the Russian leader believes America has no right lecturing his country about democracy’s best practices.
Regardless, after the meeting, Putin held a solo news conference. Biden followed suit. The two leaders “concluded with an agreement to return their nations’ ambassadors to their posts in Washington and Moscow and a plan to begin work toward replacing the last remaining treaty between the two countries limiting nuclear weapons,” the AP reported. Here’s what both sides had to say about the summit.
On The Right
Right-leaning outlets characterized Biden’s performance as weak, deeming it a mere continuation of his Trump-apology tour overseas. One commentator found it interesting that just before the summit, congressional Democrats said they are no longer seeking records of former President Donald Trump’s private meetings with the Russian leader. Scroll for more.
Lost Leverage: Fox News published several opinion pieces outlining their hosts’ and commentators’ thoughts on the summit. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The Trump administration created real leverage against Russia [Biden] could have used. Instead, he has chosen to abandon it. Even in just a few months in office, Biden has already signaled to Putin that he is timid and unprepared to confront the Russian challenge – a weakness that ex-KGB agent Putin surely senses.” Host Sean Hannity thought the summit represented a shift from an “American First” policy agenda to an “America Dead Last” approach. Hannity said his viewers should “expect ‘glowing’ praise from the media on the Biden-Putin summit,” and that Putin “runs his country like a massive crime syndicate, kind of like Joe, Hunter, and Joe’s Brother… the Biden family syndicate, except for a little more ruthless.” Hannity believes that Putin “only responds to strength so obviously he doesn’t respect President Sippy-Cup.”
Trump Apology Tour: Susan Crabtree of RealClearPolitics zooms out, calling the Biden-Putin summit just another stop on his “Trump Apology Trip.” Crabtree says, “Over the past week, President Biden has done all he can to make his first overseas foray an apology-for-Trump tour, reassuring G-7 and NATO allies that he once again has their back and will partner up with them when it comes to climate issues, the pandemic recovery, trade, and defense, instead of putting America first.” As for former President Trump, she says he went “straight to Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem before getting around to meeting with our European allies on his no-apologies first foreign trip, throwing out tradition and diplomacy to openly spar with America’s longtime partners, threaten to withdraw from NATO, and cement his America-first agenda.” Ultimately, “The fact that Putin was building up forces outside Ukraine and [Biden failed] to stop ransomware attacks while Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to enter Taiwanese airspace shows both leaders sense weakness from [the US President] and believe they can push the US and its allies around.”
Interesting Timing: Finally, writing for Hot Air, Ed Morrissey points out that, coincidentally, just before the Biden-Putin summit, “Congressional Democrats said they are no longer seeking records of former President Donald Trump’s private meetings with the Russian leader, despite previous concerns Trump tried to conceal details of their conversations.” Sarcastically, Morrissey writes: “Gee, I wonder why House Democrats suddenly lost interest in setting precedents for intruding in presidential diplomacy? Could it be that they’re worried about a Republican majority going on a similar fishing expedition in 2023 regarding Joe Biden’s discussions with Vladimir Putin [yesterday]?” In reality, Morrissey says, “This was an unprecedented intrusion by Congress into presidential diplomacy in the first place. It took place during the Russia-collusion hysteria, which House Democrats both fueled and manipulated to their political benefit.” Ultimately, “Now that the shoe has begun to transfer to the other foot, House Democrats realize that this precedent could make life difficult for their own current president. Perhaps especially for their own current president, considering how undisciplined Biden gets when conversing publicly and privately. That’s why they’re dropping this just as this summit begins and hoping everyone buys the ‘looking forward’ excuse.”
On The Left
Left-leaning commentators and outlets believe President Biden handled Putin well at the summit. They think he showed a willingness to cooperate on key issues but stood firm on other important topics. TIME Magazine depicted Biden staring Putin down with a pair of aviators ahead of the summit, painting him as a maverick ready to play and win “the autocrat’s game.”
No Intention of Being Seduced: Mehdi Hasan, an MSNBC opinion columnist, says, “In fairness to Trump — and I hate typing out those words — every American president has heaped praise on Putin in their first meeting. Every president has misjudged the dead-eyed former KGB colonel from the get-go.” From a historical perspective, Hasan says, “Putin has thrived for over two decades in power by, time and again, persuading American presidents to invest their trust in him while simultaneously sowing division and discord among the US and its allies.” This happened in June 2000 with Bill Clinton, again one year later with George W. Bush, and once more in the summer of 2009 with newly elected president, Barack Obama. As for Biden, Hasan says he “has demonstrated that, while he is willing to work with his Russian counterpart on issues of shared importance, like arms control and climate change, he has no intention of being seduced by him, as his four predecessors were.” He ends by saying, “It won’t be easy. But it may well be one of the defining challenges of his presidency.”
Putin Doesn’t Care: Elena Chernenko, special correspondent for Kommersant, an independent newspaper in Russia, shares her thoughts in an opinion piece for the New York Times. Simply put, she believes, “Mr. Putin [had] nothing to fear from Mr. Biden. Enduringly popular and freshly buoyed by the quashing of the opposition, Russia’s president has ample cause to feel secure.” Chernenko says, “The first impediment for Mr. Biden is straightforward: His message will not get a good airing. Television, dominated by channels run or controlled by the state, remains the main source of news for three-quarters of Russians, so most people in Russia will see the American president through the Kremlin’s eyes.” Additionally, Putin “retains the trust and approval of over 60 percent of Russians,” and in reality, “opposition rallies do not attract significant numbers of participants.” Moreover, “Even among Russians who actively support democracy, the rule of law and human rights, Mr. Biden won’t find much support. Over the past decades, many Russian liberals have become disillusioned with the West, especially the United States.” At the end of the day, she says that although the US has painted Putin as an “arch-villain and evil mastermind,” quite frankly, he “couldn’t care less.”
Remember Trump’s Meeting: Finally, ahead of the Biden-Putin meeting, CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza said, “Don’t ever forget what happened at the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit,” calling it “one of the lowest points of a presidency absolutely stuffed with them.” Cillizza writes that “Trump not only refused to condemn Russian interference [in the US presidential election] but seemed to side with Putin and against his own intelligence community.” Zooming out, “Almost three years on — and with another American president meeting with Putin — it’s clear that Trump’s actions (and inaction) during the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol were worse than what he did in Helsinki in 2018. But man, it took a lot for Trump to go lower than where he was then.”
Flag This: The Biden and Putin Summit
Prior to their meeting, most Americans wanted US President Joe Biden to take a tough stance with Russian leader Vladimir Putin rather than strike a cooperative tone. This is according to a CBS News/YouGov poll, in which 58% of respondents said a tough stand is necessary. The most important issue that Americans wanted Biden to address was Russia-linked cyberattacks on the US, followed by Russia’s pressure on its neighbors and interference in US elections. A majority of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Putin (56%), while three out of ten say they haven’t heard enough and are therefore undecided. More broadly, over 60% believe Russia is unfriendly or straight up an enemy of the United States.
Ahead of yesterday’s summit, there was a fleeting moment of bipartisanship from both politicians and the media. Writing for CNN, Rep. Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island, and Rep. Michael T. McCaul, a Republican from Texas, focused on “the national security threat of ransomware.” After the Colonial Pipeline attack and JBS Hack, they wrote that Biden needs to “use Wednesday’s summit with Putin to confront this dire national security challenge head-on by making ransomware a priority item on his agenda. Biden must make it clear to Putin that responsible states do not allow criminal gangs to operate freely from their soil.” Meanwhile, in an opinion piece for Fox News, Rebekah Koffler, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, outlines a similar issue, warning that “There are many more [cyberattacks] on the way.” Whenever we can find agreement from both sides — whether among politicians or the media — we want to highlight the topic. According to AFP, “Since the beginning of 2021, the total amount paid by cyberattack victims in ransoms has reportedly reached $18 billion, with the number of attacks increasing by 300 percent in the US alone.” Reps Langevin and McCaul jointly co-founded and co-chair the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. We commend them for their rare display of bipartisanship and want to give a hat-tip to both CNN and Fox News for shining light on the same issue.
Flag Poll: The Biden and Putin Summit
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