A fresh thaw between Putin and Biden
A summit in Geneva after the tensions of recent months. The respective ambassadors return to the offices in Washington and Moscow. Focus on cyber security, the pandemic, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea. Major differences over Ukraine and human rights in Russia.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Russia and the United States have decided to restore diplomatic relations returning their respective ambassadors. The two envoys were recalled home in March and April after escalating tensions between the Kremlin and Washington.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the move to the press yesterday after meeting his US counterpart Joe Biden. The Russian leader also stated that “we talked face to face for more than two hours, and this does not happen with all leaders. There was no hostility during the meeting. There was an exchange of respective principles, on which our positions do not coincide, but the conversation was constructive”.
Last spring, ambassadors Anatolij Antonov and John Sullivan returned to Washington and Moscow. Russia had placed the US on the list of "non-friendly countries", banning Russian citizens from working in US diplomatic offices. Many senior officials have been expelled or sanctioned by both sides, including the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration Sergei Kirienko, predicted by many as a possible successor to Putin (if needed). The head of the FSB (former KGB) Aleksandr Bortnikov is also part of the list. Among others, Russian sanctions hit US Justice Secretary Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The meeting between Putin and Biden on Lake Geneva recalled the memorable summits of the time of the Cold War, which in recent years seems to have been revived by the many reasons for hostility between post-Soviet Russia and the West of post-globalization.
Putin interrupted his long break from travel abroad caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in order to travel for the meeting at Villa La Grange. He met directly with Biden, who not long ago had called him a "killer" and made it clear that he did not want to give discounts to the Russian tsar, increasingly seen as a dictator by Washington.
The last Russia-US summit was held in Helsinki in July 2018, amid the ambiguity of the relationship of loving opposition between Putin and Donald Trump. The initial surprise was the unusual punctuality of Putin, famous for his great delays at these levels, while this time he even arrived first, welcomed by Swiss President Guy Parmelin.
In reality, the meeting with the new US president, at the beginning of his mandate, is almost a tradition for Putin: he met with Bush junior in May; with Obama in April; and with Trump, in fact, in July of their inaugural years. Biden's predecessor also met Putin on his first European tour, coming from Britain. Relations between the two great enemies of the twentieth century have further deteriorated in the last three years, and there were no particular illusions about the outcome of the Geneva summit.
The Russian Foreign Minister himself, Sergej Lavrov, declared on 9 June that "we do not expect any particular openings or surprises, but there is an objective need for an exchange of views at the highest level between the two main nuclear powers in the international arena."
The Russian judgment on Trump was very positive at first; on June 12, in an interview with NBC, Putin recalled him as "a politician of exceptional talent", compared to Biden defined as "a professional politician". The next day Biden avoided using offensive terms against his Russian counterpart, while referring to him as an "autocrat".
According to all forecasts and advances, the first topic on the agenda was cyber security. Putin said that “on this point all insinuations must be put aside, and we have agreed to start consultations on the matter. You have to sit down and get to work”.
In addition to the issue of the fight against the coronavirus, the two powers need to find a certain agreement on various global issues: Ukraine, Libya, Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan. The summit in Switzerland started "from the lowest point of mutual relations since Soviet times", the only aspect on which both sides were in complete agreement. For this reason, a joint press conference of the two leaders was excluded from the outset.
As for Ukraine’s entry into NATO, Putin declared that "it was only touched upon because there is nothing to discuss here". On the issue of human rights in Russia, the Russian leader said Biden presented his view, reiterating that "Naval'nyj knew what awaited him, given his two sentences, and he chose to be arrested".