Was the Biden-Putin meeting a success?

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Wednesday in Geneva. While they agreed on the return of diplomats to their respective embassies, in other respects their discussion went no further than staking out their interests. In view of the tense relations between the two countries expectations were already rather low in the run-up to the meeting, and commentators also give a mixed assessment of its results.

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15min (LT) /

Clear willingness to cooperate

15min sees signs of rapprochement on both sides:

“Putin did not humiliate Biden. On the contrary - he complimented him by describing him as ethical and professional. He clearly showed that he wants to work with Biden, and Biden managed to strike a delicate balance in his statements to the media. He didn't praise Putin's leadership style and was critical of Putin's Russia, but he didn't preach. It was apparent that Biden, too, is willing to cooperate under certain conditions. The US president didn't try to ingratiate himself, but he exercised restraint - unlike during his election campaign, when he openly criticised Putin. Biden came to Geneva as a diplomat. We don't yet know what the future holds, but the meeting marks a new beginning.”

Savon Sanomat (FI) /

Key dialogue on Arctic policy

Biden's soft tone may have good reasons, says Savon Sanomat:

“It's often said that Russia's power rests primarily on its nuclear weapons and its seat on the UN Security Council. This view may be somewhat narrow, and perhaps the US has realized that. In terms of surface area Russia is the largest country in the world and its northern territories, the Arctic regions, will be at the strategic centre of world politics in the coming decades. So how how Russia behaves in the Arctic and with whom it cooperates is of key importance. The dialogue with the US gives Russia the opportunity to compare it with the talks and relations with China. ... Biden may have tried to sow distrust of China. If that succeeded, we can talk of a success from the US perspective.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

A foreseeable failure

Deutsche Welle's Romanian service suspects Biden has been bamboozled:

“Before the summit, Biden's discourse had visibly softened, just as his elan weakened during the crisis on the Ukrainian border in the spring. Back then, the US president ordered the two US warships that were on their way to the Black Sea to return as quickly as possible. And worse still, he then indirectly gave the green light for Putin's pet project, Nord Stream 2. But unilateral concessions have failed to produce any significant change of course in Russian policy over the past two decades. Under these circumstances, and given Putin's misdeeds, which include the removal of all controls on nuclear arsenals, Biden could have foreseen that he would not achieve his goals.”

Népszava (HU) /

Journalist's question marked the highlight

Népszava admires ABC reporter Rachel Scott's performance at Putin's press conference:

“Rachel Scott asked the Russian president a simple question regarding the ever-longer list of deceased and imprisoned opposition figures and why associations associated with Alexei Navalny have been classified as 'extremist': what is he so afraid of? The interviewee clearly didn't like that. He explained that the root of all evil was the US because it supported civil organisations in Russia and 'the opposition outside the system'. ... We congratulate the young colleague. Such moments make choosing journalism as your profession worthwhile.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Light years from any agreement

The Biden-Putin summit fell far short of being historic, Avvenire puts in:

“The Russian president confirmed his image as an ice-cold leader. He confined himself to confidently and monotonously stressing the difficulties in bilateral relations and repeating blatant untruths about both the scandal over his opponent Navalny (whom he contemptuously refused to mention by name) and the cyber attacks on American infrastructures. ... There was no progress on Ukraine, the first and real obstacle on the road to dialogue with the EU. One small collateral positive result is the imminent return of the two countries' ambassadors, in the spirit of cold-war pragmatism, whereby the war is not as 'cold' as all that.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Biden has set clear terms

The differences should not obscure the potential of the meeting, says Večernji list:

“Alexei Navalny's death would be another indication that Russia has no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights, said the US president, who met his Russian counterpart for the first time in Geneva and laid out the red lines the latter must not cross if he wants good relations with Washington. ... Biden stressed that he did not want conflict, but stable conditions - provided Russia abandons its hostile attitude not only towards the US, but also towards European countries. ... The first meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985 didn't get off to the best start either, but it led to the end of the Cold War.”

LB.ua (UA) /

Parallels with Eisenhower and Khrushchev

Lb.ua also draws a historical comparison:

“The meeting between Putin and Biden resembled the Geneva talks between Nikita Khrushchev and Dwight Eisenhower in 1955, when the topic was unifying Germany and, above all, destroying an alliance between Moscow and Beijing. That summit ended inconclusively, and Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs: 'We agreed on nothing, but realised that we could talk at the negotiating table'. That is exactly what has happened now. ... It can be assumed that the Americans - as in the Eisenhower era - will not give up their attempts to normalise relations with Putin's Russia. And Moscow knows it. The reason behind this is the desire to break the Sino-Russian alliance.”

Vzglyad (RU) /

Russia can feel vindicated

Timofei Bordachev, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, which is close to Putin, writes in Vsglyad that the meeting was thoroughly positive:

“Both sides do what they think is necessary. But if there are certain issues to discuss, they do that too. Ultimately, this is what Russia has always strived for. The nature of the US-Russia relationship is such that despite their antagonism the two countries don't make concessions the prerequisite for resolving concrete problems. Russia never really did, but now, under Biden, the US is also comfortable with this approach. In this sense, the summit has fulfilled the most optimistic expectations and has become the most fruitful in the last couple of decades. ”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

The West needs to get serious

Enough words have been exchanged now, says Svenska Dagbladet:

“It seems that there is more to fear against the backdrop of Russia's revanchist rhetoric. Russia is 'creating facts on the ground' and coldly calculating on getting away with it. American policy must try to change the facts. To give nothing or to give in. ... The defence of human rights cannot stop at words. If Navalny dies in prison, the consequences, as Biden has warned, must be devastating.”