President Joe Biden of the United States (US) came away from a historic meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia with a clear statement – Russia is not ready for another Cold War.
With early details of the meeting still buried in diplomatic speak, the US should be happy that at the very least, Russia, the fulcrum of its long winded cold war with the defunct Soviet Union (USSR) is willing to break away from the past.
The two world superpowers spoke during a Summit in Geneva on Wednesday.
President Biden summarized the meeting in few words: “I did what I came to do. I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else. Its for the American people,” he told CNN.
“Disagreements were stated, but not in a hyperbolic way,” said he said while his Russian counterpart referred to Mr. Biden as an experienced statesman and the two spoke the same language,”
Mr. Biden discountenanced media reports that the talks lasted for less than three hours as against expectations that it will be a long-winded session going by the myriad of global issues that should have been top on the agenda of two powerful world leaders.
In defense of the shortfall in manhours expended at the talks, Mr. Biden said they did not need to spend more time talking and there was now a genuine prospect to improve relations with Russia.
Into the summit proper, the two leaders are reported to be on the same page as far as an agreement to open talks on nuclear arms control are concerned. There is also a consensus to return ambassadors who were mutually withdrawn for consultation in March after accusations of Russia’s interference in the 2020 presidential election.
BBC World reports that there was little sign of agreement on other issues, including cyber-security, Ukraine and the fate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is serving a two-and-a-half- year sentence in a penal colony.
President Biden however, was unequivocal that there would be devastating consequences for Russia if Navalny died in prison.
On his part, President Putin pointed to a possible deal on exchanging prisoners, saying he believed compromises could be found.
On Cyber-attacks, Mr. Putin brushed away accusations of Russian responsibility, while stating that most cyber attacks in Russia originated from the US.
Mr. Biden said he told President Putin that critical infrastructure such as water or energy must be off-limits to hacking or other attacks. He did not say that hacking, generally speaking, is off limit.
“I looked at him and said how would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil field? He said it would matter,” Mr, Biden said and added that if Russia violated these basic norms the US would retaliate.
As suspected, the leaders disagreed on human rights, including the right to protest, with Mr. Putin dismissing US concerns about Navalny, who recently went on a 24 hour hunger strike.
Mr. Putin said Navalny had ignored the law and knew he would face imprisonment when he returned to Russia after having sought medical treatment in Germany. Navalny said he was poisoned with a nerve agent on Mr. Putin’s orders. Mr. Putin denies the accusation,
He said Russia did not want disturbances on its territory comparable to the Capitol riots or the Black Lives Matter movement.
But Mr. Biden dismissed Mr. Putin’s comments about Black Lives Matter as ridiculous and added that human rights would always be on the table.
When asked why Russia would want to co-operate with the US, Mr. Biden said it (Russia) was in a very, very difficult spot right now. “They are being squeezed by China. They want desperately to remain a major power” he told reporters. (BBC/CNN)