Biden and Putin Express Desire for Better Relations at Summit Shaped by Disputes


GENEVA — A extremely anticipated first summit assembly between President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ended early on Wednesday and was described by either side as a collection of well mannered however adamantly said disagreements about which nation is the better pressure of worldwide disruption.

After 4 hours of talks, the 2 leaders emerged, individually, and provided skilled respect for one another, like two expert boxers describing the opposite’s prowess. Both expressed a want for a greater relationship, however introduced no dramatic actions to arrest the downward spiral that has already hurtled them towards the worst U.S.-Russian tensions because the Cold War.

In dueling information conferences on the sting of Lake Geneva, a standard web site for two of the world’s strongest antagonists to debate their variations, the 2 leaders dedicated to the creation of working teams to cope with pressing points, beginning with arms management and the proliferation of cyberattacks. They agreed to ship ambassadors again to one another’s capitals, Mr. Putin stated, and expressed curiosity in working in some areas of mutual curiosity, from the Arctic to Afghanistan.

“There has been no hostility,’’ Mr. Putin said, speaking about the meeting.

Mr. Biden declared “I did what I came to do,’’ including laying out a series of warnings and red lines for the Russian leader, which he insisted were not “threats.”

Mr. Biden emerged providing some modest optimism that America has restored its alliances with Europe and has made Mr. Putin extra cautious about any actions thought to be being towards American pursuits.

“I think the last thing he wants now is a Cold War,’’ Mr. Biden said at his news conference, describing Mr. Putin as the struggling leader of a declining economy who was worried about the growth of an expansionist, aggressive China on his border.

But Mr. Biden also said he had handed the Russian leader a list of 16 examples of “critical infrastructure,’’ and had made clear that if they were attacked, “we have significant cyber capabilities” and would reply “in a cyber way.”

Mr. Biden stated there had been no hyperbole and no speak of army intervention of their exchanges, which he described as “simple assertions.” But his warning that accelerating Russian cyber operations would get an in-kind response might sign a big escalation within the day by day cyber battle now underway amongst main and lesser powers, together with China, Iran and North Korea.

American officers have often shied away from main cyber operations towards Russia, fearing that they may not be capable of management the escalation of strikes and counterstrikes. While Mr. Biden has begun a crash effort to reduce the vulnerability of American assets, from pipelines to energy crops, it’s an effort that may take years, and won’t ever defend each weak spot.

Mr. Putin, for his half, denied that Russia had been accountable for the vary of assaults on the United States. His denial appeared to incorporate each the delicate assaults like SolarWinds, revealed final December, that American officers stated had been launched from Russia’s premier intelligence businesses, and ransomware attacks that Mr. Biden has stated got here from criminals harbored on Russian soil.

In his information convention, Mr. Putin turned the accusations again on Washington, asserting that the United States was accountable for a far bigger variety of malicious cyber campaigns than Russia.

Mr. Putin then refused to take any duty for human rights violations or the invasion of components of Ukraine, providing assertions about wanting a greater relationship with the United States, however no assurances that he deliberate to vary Russia’s habits.

Asked in regards to the imprisonment of political rivals, like Aleksei A. Navalny, Mr. Putin stated Mr. Navalny had damaged the regulation. The Russian chief additionally engaged in acquainted what-aboutism, referring to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and then including, “What about Guantánamo?’’ a reference to the detention center where the United States still keeps a small number of prisoners plucked off the battlefields in counterterrorism operations.

By the end of the day, it was clear the two men had resolved few of their longstanding differences and kicked over several of them to working groups of senior officials that Mr. Biden said would be given six to 12 months to report back.

Mr. Biden described the “Strategic Stability Dialogue,” targeted on new nuclear weapons that fall largely exterior the classes at present coated by the few remaining nonproliferation agreements, as the primary check of Mr. Putin’s seriousness.

The leaders additionally issued a joint statement promising to carry arms-control talks and pledging that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” It was an announcement that reached again 36 years, to a gathering between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1985, also in Geneva.

But the contrasts between that session and this one spoke volumes. Reagan had famously referred to as the Soviet Union the “evil empire,’’ but he and Gorbachev spent hours talking inside and outside, dined together, and tried to get to know each other. In the hours before Mr. Biden’s encounter with Mr. Putin, his aides made clear that they would not break bread, and that the meetings would be formal ones.

Though it was a beautiful day, and they were meeting on a former estate that had trails down to the lake, they never explored the gardens, or left the impression they were trying to get to know each other. It was purely business, Mr. Biden said. It ended an hour earlier than administration officials had anticipated.

The meeting was performed with delicate choreography, seemingly designed to avoid a display of any camaraderie. Mr. Putin arrived first, straight from the airport, and was greeted on the red carpet in front of a lakeside villa by President Guy Parmelin of Switzerland. About 15 minutes later, Mr. Biden arrived in his motorcade, shook hands with Mr. Parmelin and waved to reporters.

The Swiss president welcomed the two leaders, wishing them “fruitful dialogue in the interest of your two countries and the whole world.” He then stepped apart, permitting Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin to method one another, smiling, and shake arms.

Mr. Biden appeared energized by the encounter, at one level taking off his jacket whereas answering a query at his information convention, and placing on his signature sun shades to sign he was able to wrap up a weeklong journey by way of Europe and head house. Yet he stayed across the information convention web site for a number of minutes, answering shouted questions.

Yet at the top of the day it was unclear whether or not something he noticed or heard led to a revision of his view of Mr. Putin. Mr. Biden declined to say whether or not he would nonetheless describe the Russian chief as a “killer” and argued that not one of the dialog portended the beginning of a friendship.

“This is not about trust,” he stated. “This is about self interest and verification of self interest.”

While the leaders retained their starkly diverging worldviews, there have been moments of their separate information conferences during which they appeared surprisingly in sync. Mr. Putin referred to as Mr. Biden “constructive, well-balanced and experienced,” and stated he wished agreements on “rules of behavior” on delicate topics like nuclear weapons and cybersecurity — an echo of American officers’ hopes of discovering “guardrails” for the U.S.-Russian relationship.

“I think that we can find agreement on all this,” Mr. Putin stated. “At least I got that sense given the results of our meeting with President Biden.”

Cyber specialists expressed some skepticism, noting that Russia has usually argued for cyber “conventions” that will give it better management over the web — and thus over its use by dissidents — whereas demanding absolute proof that Russian actors had been concerned in malicious exercise.

Mr. Putin additionally left the door open to deeper engagement with Washington than the Kremlin had been keen to entertain lately. On points past cybersecurity and nuclear weapons, together with diplomatic spats and even prisoner exchanges, Mr. Putin stated he was prepared for talks with the United States, and he voiced uncommon optimism about the potential for reaching outcomes.

“If you ignore the tiresome what-aboutism, there were some real outcomes,” stated Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation in Arlington, Va. “Russia is not in the habit of confessing its sins and seeking forgiveness. Particularly under Putin.”

The most important outcomes in Mr. Charap’s view had been the settlement on U.S.-Russian dialogue on strategic stability and cybersecurity, in addition to the settlement for American and Russian ambassadors to return to their posts in Moscow and Washington. Mr. Putin additionally stated there was “potential for compromise” on the problem of a number of Americans imprisoned in Russia and Russians imprisoned within the United States.

To tout his renewed willingness to speak — whereas acknowledging the uncertainty forward — Mr. Putin quoted from Russian literature.

“Leo Tolstoy once said: ‘There is no happiness in life — there are only glimmers of it,’” Mr. Putin stated. “I think that in this situation, there can’t be any kind of family trust. But I think we’ve seen some glimmers.”



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