Vladimir Putin tries to iron out disagreements with Joe Biden after their first meeting

The meeting in Geneva between the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Poutin, which lasted less than four hours, began with a stampede. A few tens of seconds devoted to the photo shoot – after hesitation, the two leaders briefly shook hands, a gesture that has become rare in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – then the security services pushed back the journalists, with more or less courtesy, like the shows a video of the Washington post. But this episode did not set the tone for the discussions. It must be said that the two presidents had an excuse to be in a hurry: they should mention nothing less than Ukraine, Belarus, disinformation, computer attacks, not to mention the Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny. At the end of their interview, they each joined their delegation for two separate press conferences.

“No animosity”

Mr. Poutine, who was the first to speak, blew hot and cold. The Russian president described the mood of the meeting: “There was no animosity”, adding that, “On many questions, [leurs] assessments diverge, but both parties have demonstrated a desire to understand each other and seek ways to reconcile positions ”.

Unsurprisingly, he said that Mr. Biden was “An experienced statesman”, ” very different “ by Donald Trump. He explained that their one-to-one exchange – without Foreign Ministers Antony Blinken or Sergey Lavrov – “Had lasted nearly two hours”. “It is not all world leaders who receive so much attention”, he added.

The Russian president announced that the two countries had agreed to a return of their respective ambassadors, recalled by Moscow and then Washington in March and April. They agreed to start negotiations on nuclear in order to replace the New Start treaty, which limits nuclear weapons after its expiration, in 2026. He also assured that the United States should not worry about militarization Russian Federation in the Arctic, a strategic region where Russia does not hide its ambitions.

He added that the two countries had agreed on a dialogue on “Cybersecurity”, adding however that “The greatest number of cyberattacks in the world come from American space” and criticizing Washington’s lack of cooperation on the matter.

Asked about Alexeï Navalny, Mr. Putin referred to the Black Lives Matter movement, the assault on the Capitol, before declaring that the opponent “Knew he was breaking the law” by not respecting the conditions of a suspended sentence while he was treated in Germany after poisoning.

Many areas of disagreement

Joe Biden and Vladimir Poutine, in Geneva, June 16, 2021.

Ahead of their meeting, the two leaders expressed their hope for a more stable and predictable relationship, while their differences are numerous and concern a range of issues. On Monday, at the end of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Brussels, Mr. Biden had promised to tell Mr. Putin what were “Its red lines” : “We are not looking for a conflict with Russia, but we will respond if Russia continues its activities”, he had declared. In Brussels, Mr Biden had issued a very clear warning about Mr Navalny, claiming that his death “Would be a tragedy” who “Would only deteriorate relations with the rest of the world. And with [lui].

For his part, the Russian president, who has already rubbed shoulders with four other American presidents since coming to power at the end of 1999, obtained what he wanted: the holding of the summit as an illustration of the importance of Russia on the world stage. In an interview with the American channel NBC, he said he hoped the Democratic president was less impulsive than his Republican predecessor. But he also took the opportunity to highlight how much of a man he believes Mr. Trump was. “Talented”.

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Le Monde with AFP, AP and Reuters