President Biden on Wednesday framed his three-hour sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a foreign policy win, even as tensions on cyberattacks and human rights loom over the future of the relationship between the two leaders.
White House officials sought to keep expectations low and tightly controlled the optics of the meeting, opting for a solo press conference with Biden instead of a joint one with him standing next to Putin.
The president would not divulge his planned message to Putin when asked at the preceding Group of Seven (G-7) and NATO summits, and officials repeatedly said they hoped for a “predictable and stable” relationship with Moscow, even as experts noted Putin thrives on sowing disorder.
But upon emerging from Wednesday’s meeting in Geneva, both Biden and Putin agreed hostilities were minimal and said they had a “positive” and “constructive” talk that took a few hours less than what White House officials had previously indicated.
“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 at a press conference.
The president said his goal going into the summit was to identify areas of mutual interest, make clear the U.S. would respond to Russian attacks on American interests or U.S. allies and “lay out our country’s priorities and values so he heard it straight from me.”