NEW YORK / GENEVA / MOSCOW – US President Joe Biden held his first summit in Geneva on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, agreeing to put in place new frameworks for dialogue on arms control and cybersecurity.
The two sides also agreed to allow their respective ambassadors to resume their functions.
For Biden, who entered in hopes of building a “stable and predictable” relationship, it was a first step towards easing tensions with a traditional American rival in order to focus his energy on the new strategic competitor. , China.
Biden and Putin noted in a joint statement that the two countries, even in times of tension, “are able to move forward on our common goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflict and the threat of nuclear war. “
“We reaffirm the principle that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” they said.
The two sides will jointly engage in an integrated bilateral “strategic stability dialogue” in the near future “which will be deliberate and robust,” they said. “Through this dialogue, we seek to lay the foundations for future arms control and risk reduction measures,” they said in a short three-paragraph statement.
The face-to-face meeting was initiated by Biden and marked the first summit between the leaders of the two countries in three years.
Russia, in terms of national power, is no longer the formidable rival of the United States, the Soviet Union. For Putin, meeting Biden offers an opportunity to project Moscow’s presence on the international stage to the national and foreign public and helps to strengthen its political foothold in his country.
Biden told reporters after the summit that he and Putin “share the unique responsibility of managing the relationship between two powerful and proud countries – a relationship that must be stable and predictable,” adding that they should be able to cooperate where it’s possible. their mutual benefit.
But the two leaders spoke at separate press conferences – a departure from the usual common pressures from the leaders of the United States and the countries with which they are friends, and from previous U.S. President Donald Trump with Putin in Helsinki.
US-Russian relations have been widely described, including by the two leaders, as being at their post-Cold War low. Washington is imposing various active sanctions on Moscow, including for interference in the US elections, cyber attacks threatening US infrastructure, human rights violations and its invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
Biden also initiated the summit – which took place early in his presidency – despite historically low American public opinion of Russia following the poisoning of Russian opposition leader and activist Alexei Navalny, to which the Kremlin denies having played a role.
The American leader told reporters that “the last thing [Putin] now wants is a cold war “with Washington, characterizing Russia’s position as one where it has a border of several thousand miles with China, which aspires to become the largest economy with the most powerful military in the world, and where Russia’s own economy is struggling.
“Russia is in a very, very difficult situation right now,” Biden said before boarding Air Force One to return home. “They are in a hurry by China. They desperately want to remain a great power.”
Putin, in his own press conference, called the summit “constructive” and said he saw it as a “silver lining” for mutual trust with the United States. But he said it remains to be seen whether relations with Washington improve.
Last week, the Kremlin chief said that Russia and China had developed a hitherto unprecedented strategic partnership, as well as “a high level of trust and cooperation in all fields: in politics, in economy, in the field of technology, in the field of military and technical cooperation.
“We don’t think China is a threat to us. It is,” Putin told NBC in an interview.
“China is a friendly nation,” he said. “He did not declare us an enemy, like the United States did.”
Responding to Putin’s remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press conference on Tuesday that “indeed, China and Russia are united as a mountain, and our friendship is indestructible “.
“The two countries have stood firmly behind each other on matters concerning the fundamental interests of the other, and the mutual political trust and strategic coordination between the two has been continuously consolidated and improved,” Zhao said.
The Biden-Putin summit, although a potential concern for Beijing, is a welcome development for India, which has an increasingly strong partnership with Washington – including through its membership in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – but shares also defense links with Russia.
“And although India may be particularly enthusiastic about the idea of a US-Russian detente, it is not alone in Asia,” wrote C. Raja Mohan, director of the Institute for Southern Studies. Asians from the National University of Singapore, in an article on pre-summit foreign policy.
“Many others in the region believe that an independent Russian role will create more leeway for themselves in the emerging confrontation between China and the United States,” Mohan argued.
Wednesday’s summit, which was also attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, lasted more than three hours but ended earlier than expected. A senior US official denied that the talks ended early.
Biden said the meeting was already long for a summit between two world leaders and they went into “excruciating detail” in their conversation. The tone of the whole meeting was “good, positive”.
“I did what I came to do,” he said: identifying areas of practical work to advance mutual interests; communicate directly that the United States will respond to actions that undermine its vital interests or those of its allies, and will clearly articulate American priorities and values.
“Another area we spent a lot of time on was cybersecurity and cybersecurity,” he said. by any other means. “