Joe Biden was condemned for taking pre-approved questions from journalists during his Geneva summit with Vladimir Putin – then moaning at a journalist for ‘never asking a positive question.’
‘To be a good reporter you gotta be negative. You gotta have a negative view of life, ok, it seems to me – the way you all – you never ask a positive question,’ Biden told one of the reporters on the tarmac at the airport in Geneva Wednesday before boarding Air Force One for a flight back home to Washington.
Biden made his complaint after being asked to provide ‘concrete evidence’ that ‘suggests any movement has been made’ with the Russian leader.
‘We’ll find out,’ the combative president said. ‘We have an agreement to work on a major arms control agreement.
President Biden on Wednesday got into a testy exchange with reporters on the tarmac at Geneva airport after his four-hour summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Joe Biden on Wednesday spoke to reporters on the tarmac of the airport in Geneva before boarding Air Force One for his flight home to Washington, DC
During the exchange with reporters, Biden snapped that journalists didn’t ask him enough positive questions
‘To be a good reporter you gotta be negative. You gotta have a negative view of life, ok, it seems to me – the way you all – you never ask a positive question,’ Biden told one of the reporters on the tarmac
Biden was being asked to provide ‘concrete evidence’ that ‘suggests any movement has been made’ with the Russian leader, President Vladimir Putin, during their summit in Geneva on Wednesday
‘I started working on arms control agreements all the way back during the Cold War. If we can do one during the Cold War, why couldn’t we do one now?
‘We’ll see. We will see whether or not it happens.’
On Twitter, Biden was slammed for complaining about questions from the press
Biden then added that he apologized ‘for having been short.’
On Twitter, Biden was slammed for complaining about questions from the press.
‘You never do anything to elicit positive questions,’ wrote one Twitter user in response to Biden’s criticism of the media.
‘We voted for you to create change, but you must have forgotten that, too. Just another lying politician.’
Another Twitter user, Dave Cunningham, wrote: ‘”Positive Questions” prove sycophancy.
‘Biden has had quite enough of that wondrous elixir from an adoring “press”.’
Jennifer Jacobs, a White House reporter for Bloomberg, wrote that Biden was ‘griping’ about not getting positive questions.
CNN’s Abby Phillip tweeted: ‘It’s always amazing to me that many politicians think it’s a reporter’s job to ask them nice, positive questions.
‘What would be the point of that?’
Former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway also got in on the action, tweeting: ‘@kaitlancollins is a victim of sexist mansplaining by angry President.
‘Biden snaps at reporter about Putin; whines that press never ask “positive questions”‘ Conway was referring to an earlier clash between Biden and CNN White House correspondent Collins after she grilled him about holding Putin to account.
Another Twitter user observed that Biden’s complaints about the media echoed those of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
‘Trump honestly had the same complaints lol,’ tweeted one Twitter user.
‘Both are wrong. The press should be critical and ask tough questions.’
In his description of their sit down, Biden emphasized the American commitment to human rights and said: ‘I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty to operate, and the importance of a free press and freedom of speech’.
‘I’ll take your questions and as usual, folks, they gave me a list of the people I’m going to call on,’ he then said at his press conference after finishing talks with the Russian president. In a separate press conference, Putin picked which reporters he would be taking questions from.
Biden also mistakenly referred to Putin as Trump, before quickly correcting himself, and ended the series of questions by shouting at CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins.
She yelled out a question asking why he was so confident the Russian strongman would change his behavior, given his denials and his history.
‘I’m not confident I’ll change his behavior. What do you do all the time?’ he sneered.
President Joe Biden said he stressed the importance of free speech during his summit with Vladimir Putin after taking questions from another list of pre-approved reporters in Geneva on Wednesday
In his description of their sit down, Biden emphasized the American commitment to human rights and said: ‘I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty to operate, and the importance of a free press and freedom of speech’. ‘I’ll take your questions and as usual, folks, they gave me a list of the people I’m going to call on,’ he then said at his press conference after finishing talks with the Russian president.
Biden also mistakenly referred to Putin as Trump, before quickly correcting himself, and ended the series of questions by shouting at CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins
Biden walked up to the reporter, with his suit jacket off on an unusually hot day, and accused her of not knowing her business.
‘When did I say I was confident? I said … What I said was – let’s get it straight,’ Biden said.
‘I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything. I’m just stating the facts.’
The latest remarks come days after he said he would ‘get in trouble’ with his staff if he didn’t take questions from certain reporters.
During his stern comments on Wednesday, Biden says he warned Putin that Russian cyber attacks on ‘critical’ U.S. infrastructure would draw a serious American response – and told his counterpart just how harmful a cyber attack might be on an oil pipeline that is the lifeline of the Russian economy.
Biden threatened retaliation and made his comment publicly even he denied making any kind of a ‘threat’ in his meetings with the Russian President as they discussed ransomware attacks that shut down Colonial pipeline and has other U.S. and multinational businesses on edge.
In separate, back-to-back press conferences after their sit down, both leaders expressed satisfaction with the outcome of their meeting and described their conversations in positive terms.
But there were areas where they disagreed, including human rights and cyber attacks.
Biden said he had ‘told President Putin we need some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by’, adding that ‘I did what I came to do.’
During his stern comments on Wednesday, Biden says he warned Putin that Russian cyber attacks on ‘critical’ U.S. infrastructure would draw a serious American response – and told his counterpart just how harmful a cyber attack might be on an oil pipeline that is the lifeline of the Russian economy
Vladimir Putin said there was no hostility in his meeting with Joe Biden in his nearly one hour press conference after their summit
Putin took questions from Russian state media and American news outlets
Putin looks down at the floor during an awkward first moment with Biden ahead of five hours of grueling chat to help salvage relations between Moscow and Washington
Biden lifts a hand up to Putin as the Russian gestures with his hands across the table during their meeting
He said he gave the Russian president a list of 16 specific entities that should ‘be off limits to attack, period, by cyber or any other means,’ He didn’t name the items on the list but described them as ‘critical infrastructure.’
‘He knows I will take action,’ Biden said. ‘I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability. He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but it’s significant.’
In his press conference, Putin said the leaders agreed to begin consultations on cyber security. He did not mention Biden threatened him on the issue.
American companies have been victim to a series of ransomware attacks carried out by actors based in Russia. Putin continued to deny US allegations that the Russian government was responsible for the spate of hacks.
Both presidents got a little snippy with reporters in their press conferences. Putin when he was questioned about human rights violations and opposition leader Alexei Navalny. And Biden when he was questioned on China.
And Putin took questions for twice as long as Biden: his press conference clocked in at nearly an hour while Biden spoke for 33 minutes.
‘The tone of the entire meeting … was good, positive,’ Biden said.
Putin complimented Biden’s long record in public life and the American president’s experience on the world stage.
‘President Biden is an experienced statesman. He is very different from President Trump,’ Putin said.
At one point, Biden mistakenly referred to Putin as Trump. ‘I caught part of President Trump, Putin’s, press conference,’ he said, quickly correcting himself.
Biden arrived for his outdoor press conference wearing his signature aviator sunglasses – he gifted Putin with a custom pair. He took off his suit jacket half way through, citing the hot, sunny day.
Putin spoke first after he and Biden concluded their three hour meeting at an historic 18th century villa by Lake Geneva, giving his early spin on their meeting. He walked over to the room he held his press conference, a contrast to Biden who rode over to the building in his presidential car.
Putin took questions from both Russian state media and American news outlets. He spoke in Russian and was translated.
In his press conference, Putin attacked Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, calling him a criminal
Putin turned many of the questions posed to him into criticism of the United States, including the high levels of gun violence in America.
‘You don’t have time to open your mouth and you’re shot dead,’ he said, referring to mass shootings in the United States.
‘Look at American streets. People are getting killed there,’ he said. ‘You can get a bullet in the neck.’
And, when asked about human rights violations in Russia, he argued in return the US had ‘secret CIA prisons.’
‘Is this how you protect human rights?,’ he said.
‘Guantanamo is still working. Nothing to do with human rights there,’ Putin said.
Human rights group given Russia a low rating on the issue. Human Rights Watch noted ‘the human rights situation in Russia continued to deteriorate in 2019. With few exceptions, authorities responded to rising civic activism with bans, repressive laws, and showcase prosecutions.’
Putin also shrugged off questions on Navalny and referred to him as ‘the man’ and not by name.
‘This man knew that he was breaking the law of Russia,’ Putin said.
‘He is somebody who has been twice, convicted, and he consciously ignored the requirements of the law,’ he said.
Putin described Navalny a ‘repeat offender’ who ‘deliberately wanted to be arrested.’
Navalny was convicted multiple times in Russian for embezzlement but his criminal cases were widely considered to be politically motivated and intended to bar him from running in future elections.
Joe Biden gifted Vladimir Putin a pair of custom Aviators
President Biden gifted President Putin a crystal sculpture of an American Bison by Steuben Glass of New York, a stately interpretation of one of our nation’s most majestic mammals and representative of strength, unity, resilience. In 2016, it was officially named the national mammal of the United States when the Obama-Biden Administration signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law. In Russia, over the past 20 years, European bison were reintroduced by rewilding numerous sites after their extinction in 1927. The sculpture will be presented on a cherry wood base, symbolic of our nation’s first president, George Washington, with a custom engraved inscription plaque commemorating the meeting between President Biden and President Putin.
President Biden also gifted President Putin a pair of custom Aviators made by Randolph USA. In 1978, Randolph joined forces with the U.S. military to produce the HGU-4/P Aviator designed for fighter pilots. They have since provided the U.S. military and NATO partners with their high-level, durable aviators, manufactured domestically in their Massachusetts factory.
– from a White House official
Biden was asked what would happen if Navalny died while in Russian custody.
‘I made it clear to him that I believe the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia,’ he said.
Putin also turned the question into criticism of the United States, referring to the January 6th MAGA riot when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try and stop the certification of Biden’s election victory.
Putin pointed out those protesters were being arrested by American officials.
‘Many people are facing the same things that we do,’ he said.
‘On the question of who is murdering whom, people rioted and went into the Congress in the U.S. with political demands and many people were declared as criminals and they are threatened with imprisonment for 20 to 25 years. And these people were immediately arrested after those events. On what grounds we don’t know, always,’ he said.
Biden called Putin’s comparison of Russian protesters to Black Lives Matter protests and the January 6th MAGA riot ‘ridiculous.’
‘It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through the window of the capital, kill a police officer, and be held accountable. And then there’s four people objecting marching on the Capitol, saying, You are not allowing me to speak for you. You’re not allowing me to do A, B, C or D. And so they’re very different kinds,’ he said.
Putin started off his post-summit presser with being complementary of Biden, saying the two sides were determined to understand one another.
‘I don’t think there was any kind of hostility,’ he said.
‘Both sides maintained a determination to understand each other,’ Putin noted, adding the talks were ‘constructive.’
But he revealed Biden did not invite him to visit the White House and that Biden, who is famous for quoting his mom and dad in speeches, spoke of his family during their sit down.
‘He did not invite me to the White House and no invitation of that kind was given. I think we really have to have the right conditions before we can get to that stage,’ he said.
He also said he didn’t remember saying he and Biden looked into each other’s eyes and saw their respective souls when they met in 2011 when Biden was vice president.
‘As far as looking in eyes and finding souls are concerned, well, I actually don’t remember that, but this is not the first time I’ve heard that statement. But if you ask me what kind of partner or interlocutor President Biden is, I would say that he is very balanced, professional and it’s obviously clear he’s very experienced. He talked a bit about his family, what his mother told him, they are important things – maybe they are not quite relevant – but it does talk about the level of his moral values, which is very attractive and it seems to me that we did speak the same language. It certainly doesn’t imply that we must look into each other’s eyes and find a soul or swear our affection but essentially our talks were pragmatic.’
He shrugged off a question on the next steps in US-Russian relations.
‘Difficult to say, I think everything to do with the deterioration of our mutual relations was initiated not by us but by the U.S. and I don’t know what they’re thinking about,’ he said.
But, he offered: ‘There is no happiness in life, there is only a mirage on the horizon, so cherish that.’
He also said the two nations agreed their ambassadors would return to their posts, likely in the next few days. Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, was recalled as tensions simmered between the two nations and the US envoy to Russia, John Sullivan, left Moscow in response.
Putin acknowledged the two leaders discussed the situation in the Ukraine, where Russia has been acting aggressively in the Crimea, but he didn’t offer any details.
‘I don’t think there is anything to discuss there,’ he said when asked about the Ukraine joining NATO, which it wants to do.
He also said Biden agreed to begin negotiations on nuclear talks to potentially replace the New START treaty limiting nuclear weapons after it expires in 2026.
Biden and Putin during their meeting surrounded by aides at the Villa de la Grange in Geneva
Biden and Putin sit opposite each other for the boardroom-style meeting at the Villa de la Grange overlooking Lake Geneva
Biden’s handshake with Putin was a marked contrast to the contrived elbow bumps exchanged between world leaders at the G7 to show their concern for Covid-19
The pair look at pains to appear jovial as their summit gets underway in Geneva
Security members push the press out as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Biden look on
Biden gestures as he speaks to Putin who leans forward, appearing to listen attentively to his American counterpart
Biden extended his hand first. Putin accepted, and the two proceeded to shake hands and smile for the cameras. They ignored questions shouted by reporters covering the summit.
Putin smiles thoughtfully as Biden gestures with his fists as the pair start their summit in Geneva
Putin and Biden exchange warm glances with each other as the world’s media watches on ahead of five hours of talks which the US President has promised will include tough topics such as Russian hacking and the poisoning of dissidents
Putin shakes hands with Biden inside the opulent Villa de la Grange overlooking Lake Geneva after posing for a photo with the Swiss President Guy Paremlin outside
Biden and Putin smile and look ahead awkwardly as their meeting begins at the villa overlooking Lake Geneva
Biden gestures as Putin leans on his armrest as their conversations get underway in Switzerland
Biden places a note card on the table as he and Putin exchange small talk ahead of five hours of gruelling meetings to help repair relations
The two leaders were flanked by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Putin waves at the press as he enters the Villa de la Grange behind Biden in Geneva
Utter confusion at start of the Biden-Putin summit: Details of the chaotic start with reporters shouting over each other and trying to get answers from both leaders
The long-awaited summit between President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin started with a chaotic media scrum, with reporters who managed to get into the room shouting questions while the Russian translator tried to provide answers.
It resulted in very little words spoken between the two world leaders and the press confused as to which questions they were responding to.
Photographers also blocked the camera shots and Russian aides told members of the media to go away.
AP’s Jonathan Lemire asked Putin if he feared Navalny and what he would do if Ukraine joined NATO. Putin looked up and did not respond.
NBC’s Elyse Perlmutter asked Biden if he trusted Putin. Biden looked at her and nodded in the affirmative.
But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later told the press pool that Biden wasn’t nodding at a particular question:
‘During a chaotic free for all with members of the press shouting questions over each other, the President gave a general head nod in the direction of the media. He wasn’t responding to any question or anything other than the chaos.’
The comments from the two leaders inside the room, the confusion of what questions they were asking and their responses muffled by the shouting press is detailed below:
7:36:46 PUTIN: [speaking in Russian]
7:36:52 TRANSLATOR: Mr. President, I’d like to thank you for your initiative to meet today.
7:36:56 PUTIN: [speaking in Russian]
7:37:00 TRANSLATOR: I know that you’ve been on a long tour [inaudible]
7:37:03 PUTIN: [speaking in Russian]
7:37:10 TRANSLATOR: Still, the US and Russian relations have a lot of issues accumulated that require the highest level meeting.
7:37:15 PUTIN: [speaking in Russian]
7:37:17 TRANSLATOR: And I hope that our meeting will be productive.
7:37:20 BIDEN: Thank you. As I said outside, I think that it’s always better to meet face to face.
7:37:25 TRANSLATOR: [speaking in Russian]
7:37:33 BIDEN: [inaudible] mutual interest, cooperate.
Washington broke off talks with Moscow in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and its military intervention in support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Talks resumed in 2017 but gained little traction and failed to produce an agreement on extending the New START treaty during the Trump administration.
Wednesday’s summit concluded with the dueling press conferences after the White House refused to hold a joint one with the Russian leader.
The two sides had said they expected to meet for four to five hours but spent less than three hours together.
Their summit consisted of one meeting of the two leaders with their top aides and a second meeting with a bigger delegation on both sides.
Republicans acted with expected criticism of the summit.
‘Giving Putin a meeting is just the latest win that Joe Biden has handed Russia,’ said Republican Nation Committee communications director Danielle Alvarez.
‘Biden’s foreign policy failures have strengthened Russia at the expense of our country.’
Biden and Putin arrived to the Villa de la Grange, an 18th century mansion overlooking Lake Geneva, within a few minutes of each other earlier that day: Putin, after a last-minute arrival by air and motorcade; Biden by driving from his nearby hotel, having arrived Tuesday.
Biden extended his hand first and the pair shook hands – a marked contrast to the elbow bumps Biden exchanged with several allies at the G7 – and they smiled for the cameras outside the doors before heading inside.
Their first meeting appeared to be uncomfortable for the leaders as they avoided eye contact while reporters jostled at the back of the book-lined room and yelled questions.
‘Do you trust Putin? Do you trust each other,’ a reporter shouted at them. Biden nodded in the affirmative.
But the White House quickly batted down any assumptions that the president had agreed that he ‘trusted’ Putin.
‘It was a chaotic scrum with reporters shouting over each other,’ said White House communications director Kate Bedingfield on Twitter. ‘POTUS was very clearly not responding to any one question, but nodding in acknowledgment to the press generally. He said just two days ago in his presser: ‘Verify, then trust.”
The pair faced each other in chairs, Biden crossing his legs, sitting up and tucking a note card into his jacket, while Putin leaned back, tapping his hand against the armrest, looking bored.
‘It’s always better to meet face to face,’ Biden said, flashing a big smile, though the event was set up to have no public comments by either man.
Putin ignored shouted questions from reporters, including if he feared jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Their second meeting, behind closed doors, ended at roughly 5pm local time – four hours after the summit began. When it was done, Biden walked out of the luxurious villa and rode off in the presidential motorcade, putting on his sunglasses before departing.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was seated to Biden’s right, taking notes. To Biden’s left was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, seated with his hands between his legs.
Amid commotion among the press pack, Biden looked toward Blinken, and the diplomat scribbled notes in a notebook.
Then a minder cajoled the journalists, telling photographers: ‘Go away please,’ and they were ushered out of the room so the first substantive meeting could begin.
Things got tense inside the room as Swiss officials running the event in the cramped room sought to herd a phalanx of reporters in and out of the library – with some pushing and shoving during the scrum.
The seated officials, all wearing dark suits, were treated to a chaotic scene while international media tried to make its way to capture the event.
Security officials jostled and shoved pools of reporters and photographers inside a room that was packed with cords and equipment.
‘As I said outside, I think it’s always better to meet face to face and try to determine our mutual interests and cooperation,’ Biden said.
Putin, who speaks English but refrains from using it publicly, said via a translator: ‘Mr. President I’d like to thank you for your initiative to meet today. I know that you’ve been on a long tour. Still, the U.S. and Russia relations have a lot of issues accumulated that require the highest-level meeting. And I hope that our meeting will be productive.’
Putin gestures towards the US President as the pair exchange small talk ahead of five hours of meetings
Putin and Biden look awkwardly ahead as photographers swarm around them before their talks inside the Swiss villa
Biden sits with his legs crossed and sits up stiffly as Putin adopts a more macho repose, his legs apart and leaning back with his hand draped over the armrest
The two men arrived at the summit within a few minutes of each other: Putin, after a last-minute arrival by air and motorcade; Biden by driving from his nearby hotel, having arrived Tuesday (pictured: the pair posing with Swiss President Guy Parmelin at the highly-choreographed meeting)
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was seated to Biden’s right, taking notes. To Biden’s left was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, seated with his hands between his legs.
Biden’s own limo, ‘the Beast,’ arrived at 1:18 pm, shortly after the officially posted 1:10 pm start time. Biden stood for a traditional grip-and-grin photo with the Swiss President Guy Parmelin, smiling for the cameras with an extended shake
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin waves next to Swiss President Guy Parmelin as he arrives at Villa de la Grange for the U.S.-Russia summit, in Geneva
Biden shakes hands with the Swiss President Parmelin as he arrives at the villa on Wednesday at around 1pm
Putin and Biden pose for a photo opp with the Swiss President Paremlin after arriving separately at the villa overlooking Lake Geneva
Putin’s motorcade rolls through Geneva on Wednesday. Street lights for Putin’s route on the brief drive to the villa were flashing yellow, with a main thoroughfare along the lake completely cleared of traffic for the summit.
The issues Biden and Putin want to raise
Russian-backed election interference
Russia harboring ransomware hackers
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny
Other political prisoners
Potential prisoner swap for jailed Americans
COVID-19 and vaccines
Resumption of ambassadors
Nuclear arms agreements
Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine
Recent actions in Belarus
U.S. sanctions to punish Russia
Nord Stream 2 pipeline
Syria and Bashar al-Assad
Members of the media could be heard pleading with officials to get out of the way, while the leaders made their brief statements and a translator spoke.
‘Can you please move?’ one asked. ‘This guy’s gotta move,’ said someone.
Biden could be heard offering his own brief remarks. He mentioned ‘mutual interests’ and ‘cooperation’ and relations that were ‘predictable and rational’ – in keeping with his public comments.
He also appeared to call the U.S. and Russia ‘two great powers’ – after former President Barack Obama once called Russia a ‘regional power.’
Reporters were pushed and shoved by security officials and Russian media, according to a U.S. pool report.
The highly-anticipated first presidential summit is a Cold War throwback to Ronald Reagan’s meeting with the Soviet strongman Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985.
Relations between the two sides are similarly cool – at their lowest ebb in decades after the Kremlin’s cyber offensives, election meddling, threats to invade Ukraine, poisonings of dissidents both at home and abroad, and its increased intervention in the Middle East, where it is accused of shadowy mercenary deployments.
Washington has been seeking to lower expectations amid the fanfare and buildup, which saw Moscow rocking the boat over the weekend with naval drills staged 300 miles off the coast of Hawaii – its largest military exercise in the Pacific since the Cold War.
‘We have a 20+ year track record of seeing exactly who Putin is – no summit is going to change that, and I’m sure Biden and his team know that,’ tweeted former Obama deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
The event has been both choreographed in its broad outlines and adjusted on the fly, some areas left entirely open – including the food.
‘No breaking of bread,’ quipped a senior official when asked about the lack of a set meal.
But the official allowed, ‘I presume that the principals and the participants can ask for some water or coffee or tea.’
The summit format also allowed for breaks to be determined during the five hours of discussions.
Biden is expected to hold a press conference after the summit with the Swiss President Paremelin – but Putin will not appear alongside them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Geneva Wednesday afternoon for his summit with President Joe Biden
Putin steps off his jet at Geneva Airport flanked by bodyguards before getting into his limo. Putin was riding in an armored Aurus, a state-owned luxury vehicle that reportedly has backing from the United Arab Emirates.
Putin quickly exited the jet stairway and joined his motorcade, offering a quick wave
Biden dons his signature pair of aviators as he steps off Air Force One on arrival in Switzerland on Tuesday
Biden is pictured in his limousine on his way out of Cointrin airport after arriving in Switzerland on Tuesday
Biden (L) meets the Swiss delegation members next to Swiss Federal president Guy Parmelin (R) in front of Air Force One after Biden’s arrival at Cointrin airport in Geneva on Tuesday
Vladimir Putin is briefed by an adviser in Moscow on Tuesday before he set off for Geneva for his showdown with Biden
Megaphone diplomacy before the Biden-Putin summit: What pair have said about each other in the build-up
In a wide-ranging interview with NBC, the Russian president was defiant in his response to numerous allegations against him, including cyber attacks and election meddling.
The Russian president called allegations he was involved in hacks that crippled the US ‘farical’
He said he was ‘surprised’ he hadn’t been accused yet of sparking the Black Lives Matter movement.
He also compared the arrest of Trump supporters to the jailing and ‘political persecution’ of Alexi Navalny. Putin also said he would not guarantee that his political opponent will ever leave jail.
Responding to Biden calling him a ‘killer’ back in March, Putin laughed at the claims.
When discussing a potential prisoner swap with two US Marines and Russians imprisoned in the US, he said ‘sure thing’.
On Monday, Biden called Putin ‘bright and tough’ and insisted he was a ‘worthy adversary’ ahead of the summit on Wednesday.
The US president vowed to respond ‘in kind’ to any aggression from Moscow and promised to take Putin to task on alleged hacking by Russian-backed actors and human rights abuses.
During a press conference in NATO he said: ‘I’m laughing too’ when asked if he still thought Putin was a ‘killer’.
He also said NATO leaders had ‘thanked’ him for meeting with Putin and brushed off any claims it was too early in his presidency for such a high-profile summit.
The Russian President will also be certain to put his own spin on the events, but hasn’t said how he will do it when, or where.
He has kept up a busy schedule of interviews in the days leading up to the summit.
The relationship has featured intense comments, and Biden agreed with Putin’s assessment that national relations were at a ‘low point.’
Biden says he once told Putin he had ‘no soul.’ He caused an uproar when he agreed Putin was a ‘killer.’
But this week he also called him ‘bright’ and ‘tough,’ as well as a ‘worthy adversary.’
He wants to see if there is a way to at least establish ‘stability and predictability’ in U.S.-Russia relations.
‘We should decide where it’s in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that,’ Biden said this week. ‘And the areas where we don’t agree, make it clear what the red lines are.’
Putin described Biden with the double-edged ‘career man’ label, saying he ‘spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics.’
Putin said the remark this week by way of contrast with former President Donald Trump, who he met at the infamous Helsinki summit – presenting Trump with a soccer ball and standing alongside Trump while he accepted Putin’s denials of election interference in 2016.
Biden has limited his comments on the issues he would raise. But he and his aides have said he will bring up ransomware, hacking, election interference, Ukraine, press freedoms, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and human rights.
The Navalny issue is a particularly thorny one. To the U.S. it is a core rule of law issue. Biden wants to send a message to dissidents and other opposition figures, but it is an area where it will be challenging to make progress.
‘Navalny’s death would be another indication of Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights. It would be a tragedy,’ Biden said this week when asked what it would mean should he die in prison.
‘We should not lose sight of the fact that Navalny is the most famous of several hundred political prisoners,’ said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington. He said Biden may want to raise the question of Russia’s political prisoners more broadly.
He said the U.S. should hold Putin to international standards and its own commitments as well as Russia’s own constitution. ‘We should try to hold them to those standards. The problem is the regime views these behaviors as essential to its survival. They’re not things we can convince them that they should reverse,’ he noted.’
If Biden didn’t already know it, he should be prepared for Putin trying to turn the tables on him by bringing up domestic U.S. politics.
In recent days he has spoken about the prosecution of Capitol rioters while discoursing on Black Lives Matter protests, a go-to tactics when outsiders seek to call attention to stifling of internal dissent or lack of press freedoms.
Biden also must decide how direct he wants to be when he warns Russia about ransomware attacks the U.S. believes come from its soil, even if not government-run operations.
Biden said this week: ‘I’m going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate if he chooses.
And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond. We will respond in kind.’
The two men are meeting at the Villa de la Grange, a building dating back to the 18th century just a short distance away from the luxury hotel where Biden is staying.
With its stocked Empire bookcases, Trompe l’oeil ceiling details, and colorful rose garden, the building and grounds offers bountiful opportunities for photo-ops and small talk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is putting on a show of force with the largest naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean since the end of the Cold War ahead of a meeting with Biden
Is there a very bad smell in the room? The body language expert’s view as ‘head boy’ Biden and ‘school bully’ Putin try to get the upper hand at a very tense first presidential summit in Geneva
Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have come face-to-face in Geneva for the first time as world leaders for crunch talks as the pair try to find some common ground amid the most strained US-Russian relations in years.
The world watched both men closely to see whether the two nuclear-armed adversaries got along, and MailOnline has recruited a pair of trained eyes to reveal how the two presidents approached the summit.
Body language expert Robin Kermode has been watching the summit closely, with each glance and gesture scrutinized to see what it can tell us about two of the world’s most-powerful men.
From ‘head boy’ Biden’s over-eagerness to please and reliance on notes, to ‘school bully’ Putin’s relaxed air and resigned demeanor, here are his takes on events in Geneva…
What we saw: Biden and Putin shake hands on the steps of Villa la Grange, in Geneva, as they come face-to-face for the first time since Biden became president.
What the expert saw: Hand sanitizer at the ready, they’ve obviously both agreed to go for the traditional handshake. Here we see equal power in both hands.
Note Biden’s strong thumb which belies the over-energised facial expressions – he is trying a little too hard to be welcoming. Putin has the upper hand here with confident, lowered chin and classic camera gaze.
It’s also interesting that all the aides around them are wearing masks but they are not. The full handshake suggests an open dialogue and honest intentions. A mask and an elbow bump is hardly entente cordialle.
What we saw: Biden and Putin are shown into the hallway where they wait for a few moments before going into the library for their talks to take place .
What the expert saw: We could all be forgiven for thinking that there is a very bad smell in the room …
The poker faces with downturned lip corners, jaw tension and fixed faces suggest two men trying to make the best of a distasteful situation.
What we saw: Biden and Putin are shown into the library ahead of several hours of tense talks
What the expert saw: The moment of tension as they both wait.
Biden plays the professional political game, the poker player – as if to say, ‘I might even have three aces, you just don’t know’.
Putin’s raised eyebrows, tension in his left hand, displacement activity with his right hand playing with the chair arm and the considered nonchalant look upwards with a defiant lean back in the chair suggest a petulant teenager accused of kicking the ball through the science block window.
What we saw: Biden and Putin smile for the cameras before photographers are told to leave so talks can start
What the expert saw: Both have softened a little as things get under way. But both men have clearly decided how they are going to play this one today.
Biden still more upright and formal. Looking a tad like the school Head Boy.
Putin playing passive aggressive, high status by leaning back – almost slouched in the chair. Both his hands are still very active though, suggesting someone ready to move into action if necessary.
Looking a tad like the school bully.
What we saw: Biden collects a stack of flash cards and tucks them into his jacket pocket
What the expert saw: Really interesting that Biden takes up his notes.
Putin might well have notes on the desk but he doesn’t touch them. Holding notes is not just a sign of wanting to keep your mind on track, it’s also a comforter – a gesture that aids displacement activity.
That is why people feel more comfortable if they hold a pen when giving a talk.
What we saw: Biden waves to the cameras after meeting Swiss President Guy Parmelin at the Villa La Grange in Geneva, where the summit will take place
What the expert saw: Biden looking like he’s try hard to appear open. The hand is a little too wide and the smile a little too broad compared with the tension around the jaw and the eyes.
Parmelin’s soft shoulders and open mouth suggesting there is nothing he can do to help the inevitable …
What we saw: Putin is greeted by President Parmelin and waves to the cameras before entering the Villa La Grange
What the expert saw: Putin almost doing a Norman Wisdom here – ‘The Cheeky Putin’.
He uncharacteristically lowers his shoulder and neck and is attempting something a genuine smile. His hand is less forced open than Biden’s.
What we saw: Putin, Parmelin and Biden pause for a joint photo opportunity on the steps of Villa de la Grange
What the expert saw: All three men looking very stilted. All have lip corner edges heading distinctly downwards. There seems little chance at this stage of even a faint smile.
Biden standing as if for a penalty shoot out, covering America’s crown jewels,
Parmelin’s hands are looking more resigned as if to say. ‘The ball is going to come, it’s going to come hard and there’s no way this is not going to hurt.’
Putin looking like he’s been caught by the head teacher and he know’s there’s no way out of a detention, irritating though it is to have to go through this charade.
What we saw: Putin and Parmelin walk into Villa de la Grange for another photo opportunity before the summit
What our expert saw: What is it with the lip tension today?!
Putin’s open eyes and raised eyebrows suggest resignation about something that just has to done, catching the camera self-consciously as Ricky Gervais might have done in The Office.
What we saw: Biden and Putin exchange words in the hall of Villa de la Grange before being shown in to the library
What our expert saw: Always difficult to read a still picture without complete context but neither’s eyes are open, suggested a pretty guarded stance.
They are physically very close here with Biden not having to reach from his shoulders at all. For most people this would feel unnaturally and uncomfortably close but they seem comfortable with this.
Putin, as usual, keeps his chin down and looks – as if raising his head might make him look shorter and subservient.
I can’t help feeling that this looks like the head of a family giving gentle advice to a wayward nephew.
Biden-Putin summit begins in chaos as press push each other to get in and the Swiss lock out some of the media
Part of the small pool of reporters that travel with the president at all times was left outside. The reporters were pushed and shoved by security officials and Russian media, according to the pool report of the event.
‘There’s an extremely chaotic scene at the door,’ the pool reporter traveling with President Biden reported.
Another reporter stationed outside the Villa la Grange tweeted a photo of a crush of media trying to get in the building, where the two leaders were meeting in an ornate, 18th century library.
‘Chaotic scene outside the villa where Putin and Biden are meeting. Russian reporters are jostling for position and U.S. officials are telling them to stand back,’ the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Restuccia wrote.
A security officer indicates to the media to step back as (from left) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US President Joe Biden, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Security personnel corral members of the press pools covering President Joe Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Several American reporters were left outside the summit in the chaos
US and Russian security along with Swiss government officials tried to bring order to the chaos but there was much screaming and shouting.
White House officials repeatedly tried to get the American media inside, saying that the American and Russian delegations had agreed on the number of journalists allowed in the room.
Reports from inside the room described the scuffle that took place as reporters jockeyed for position while the two presidents watched with a smile.
The chaos played out on television, with video showing aides trying to push reporters back, journalists getting in each others’ way and into the camera frame, and lots of shouting.
One photographer got in the shot of the television camera as a journalist tried to get him to move so they could get a clear shot.
‘Can you move? Because I can’t get a shot of both of them,’ the camera crew said.
‘Can you move? Because we can’t get a shot,’ the person repeated.
‘No, I can’t do that,’ the photographer replied.
As the arguing continued, officials stepped in.
‘Go away please,’ one Swiss official was heard saying. ‘Go away.’
Russian security pulled the red rope separating the media from the leaders back to try to keep reporters away from the presidents. Russian security yelled at journalists to get out and began pushing them.
Members of the media scramble to get into the villa where Biden and Putin were meeting
Members of the media tripped over all the cords and equipment in the room as the event unfolded.
Both the reporters and White House officials screamed back that the Russian security should stop touching the members of the press.
Watching it all were Biden and Putin with their respective translators at their sides.
Also there were Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
It was so packed, with officials and press shouting over each other, it was hard to hear what President Biden said to Putin.
At the beginning of the summit, Swiss President Guy Parmelin welcomed the two leaders to ‘the city of peace.’
The 18th century Swiss villa where Biden and Putin will hold talks for 5 HOURS tomorrow: Inside the lakefront property where the US president will push his ‘worthy adversary’ on cyber attacks, Ukraine, election meddling and Alexei Navalny
When President Joe Biden meets Vladimir Putin for a ‘straightforward’ conversation with his ‘worthy adversary,’ the two men will sit down for their summit meeting inside an ornate 18th century villa on the bank of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
The two men are set to meet in Geneva at the Villa de la Grange, a building with a long history that is located near the luxury hotel where Biden is staying. With its stocked Empire bookcases, Trompe l’oeil ceiling details, and colorful rose garden, the building and grounds offers bountiful opportunities for photo-ops and small talk.
Biden and Putin have met before, although the conversations haven’t always gone smoothly. Biden claims he once told Putin he had ‘no soul.’ Putin, in a recent interview when asked about Biden, went on about Donald Trump‘s persona, then called Biden a career politician. But Biden put his best foot forward at a press conference Monday in Brussels when he declined to call Putin a ‘killer.’
By selecting a well-appointed Geneva villa for the summit, diplomats were taking a page from the 1985 summit between Ronald Reagan and Michael Gorbachev, where a photograph of the two men before a fireplace set the tone for serious arms control talks that would follow.
The Reagan and Gorbachev summits set a framework for how powerful adversaries can find set aside areas for negotiation and agreement even amid larger disputes.
President Joe Biden will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Villa de la Grange in Geneva
Study time: Biden has been meeting with Russia experts and refining his talking points with key staff. The Villa La Grange library displays some of the14,000 volumes it held
The building was constructed in the 18th century and modified by banking and merchant families
‘The optics are nice. You can’t really picture the two of them meeting in like a sauna or a Burger King,’ said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington.
‘Usually villas come with grounds. That gives you a security perimeter. They’re often on the water,’ he added. ‘And they have enough rooms in them that you’ve got staff nearby at your beck and call. So that’s usually why it’s in a villa.’
The two men are expected to meet for four to five hours, Bloomberg reported, with aides saying they will meet in a smaller as well as an expanded meeting with staff. Meetings are expected to begin in the afternoon, in keeping with a schedule Biden has kept throughout his trip to Britain and Brussels.
As the host city, Swiss authorities are providing the neutral venue. They also have brought in an anti-aircraft gun, installed concertina wire, and taken other precautions around the city for the summit.
The meeting is tacked onto an eight-day trip where Biden has been soliciting advice from allied leaders on how to contend with Putin.
Both men taking part in the summit have the taste for the good life, although Biden’s relatively humble $3 million Delaware beach house and classic Corvette Sting Ray might not meet Putin’s standards. Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny claims Putin is the owner of a $1 billion Black Sea palace that was built for him. The Kremlin denies it.
The Swiss villa was built between 1768 and 1773 by a prominent Lullin family, but banker Jean Lullin had to part with it after his finances took a turn for the worse after the Geneva Revolution – a push to extend the franchise that was put down by armed troops. He sold it to an industrialist born in Marseille, who like succeeding owners made changes and additions, before it ultimately ended up in the hands of the city of Geneva, according to information on the villa provide by the city.
The tranquil setting could be a remedy to reset a relationship that Biden and Putin have described as at a ‘low point.’
‘I think he’s right, it’s a low point, and it depends on how he responds to acting consistently with international norms, which in many cases he has not,’ Biden said.
A boat with police officers patrols alongside the shore of the Lake Geneva near the ‘Villa La Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland Monday, June 14, 2021
The villa is located on Lake Geneva (Lac Leman)
Big Guns: Anti-aircraft cannon of the Swiss Army on the bank of the Geneva lake near the Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, 14 June 2021
The topics on the table are deadly serious: Nuclear arms, Russian election interference, ransomware attacks, the invasion of ukraine, a potential prisoner swap, and treatment of political prisoners in Russia included jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
A city official wouldn’t say whether the two men would meet in the villa’s bibliotheque, the library, which was created with two rooms of the 12,000 volumes that were on hand.
‘We do not have information on where the presidents will meet,’ the official told DailyMail.com, speaking in French.
The room has books in tongues including Turkish, Persian, Chinese, Hungarian, and various Germanic language, after summit meetings where the White House said Biden would meet dozens of foreign leaders.
It is unlikely the meeting will have lighthearted moments from the Helsinki summit, like when Putin presented Donald Trump with a soccer ball (which was later revealed to pose security issues since Adidas puts a microchip in side).
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbatchev share jokes on a break during the Geneva summit in 1985. The two met in a different villa which is now up for sale
Biden hopes to elevate U.S.-Russia to bring them to a more stable and predictable level
‘The bottom line is that I think the best way to deal with this is for he and I to meet, for he and I to have our discussion – I know you don’t doubt that I’ll be very straightforward with him about our concerns,’ Biden said before the summit. On Monday, he called Putin a ‘worthy adversary.’
The Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1985 took place at the Villa Fleur d’Eau, a newer mansion built in the 19th-century villa. That building has 26 rooms – and is now up for sale. ‘
According to a real estate listing it has been ‘fully converted into offices’ with ‘superior quality materials and is in a state one could consider as new’ and is occupied by a global trading company.
‘However, the building could just as easily be converted back into a dwelling.’