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World Opinion: How meeting with Biden put Putin on top of the world

05:50  20 june  2021
05:50  20 june  2021 Source:   cnn.com

Biden likely to come out of Putin summit empty-handed and risks handing the Kremlin a victory, former US officials warn

  Biden likely to come out of Putin summit empty-handed and risks handing the Kremlin a victory, former US officials warn "If there aren't clear deliverables criticism will grow that this high-level meeting ultimately benefited the Kremlin," a former US official said.Relations between the US and Russia have been deteriorating for years, and Washington has struggled to come up with an effective response to Putin's increasingly aggressive behavior both at home and abroad. Experts warn that Putin has no intention of using the meeting to improve relations, and question what Biden has to gain via the summit.

In the run up to the Geneva summit with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin had been on a rampage. A Russian court designated the opposition group led by Alexey Navalny an extremist network, after crackdowns across the country. Cybercriminals who operate in Russia are believed to have attacked critical US infrastructure, targeting the energy and food supply. And a week before the two leaders' one-day meeting, the Washington Post reported that Russia was planning to give an advanced satellite system to Iran.

Vladimir Putin in a suit standing in front of a sign © Pool

Any of these incidents would have been good reason for Biden to call off a summit that never should have existed. Now that it's over, I'm even more mystified as to why it happened at all.

Biden, unlike predecessors, has maintained Putin skepticism

  Biden, unlike predecessors, has maintained Putin skepticism BRUSSELS (AP) — President Joe Biden frequently talks about what he sees as central in executing effective foreign policy: building personal relationships. But unlike his four most recent White House predecessors, who made an effort to build a measure of rapport with Vladimir Putin, Biden has made clear that the virtue of fusing a personal connection might have its limits when it comes to the Russian leader. The president, who is set to meet with Putin face-to-face on Wednesday in Geneva, has repeated an anecdote about his last meeting with Putin, 10 years ago when he was vice president and Putin was serving as prime minister.

I can answer for Putin, of course. Dictators love events that put them on an equal footing with democratic leaders and sitting one-on-one with the president of the United States is the most coveted prize of all. Putin already scored a major victory the moment the summit was announced, especially since Biden himself proposed the meeting. For Putin, it wasn't just a meeting between heads of government -- for him, it was literally the highest point, the top of the world.

Putin, who has been legitimized on the world stage and enabled by trade and economic relations with the West, has constructed a massive, well-funded police state in Russia in the 21 years since he came to power. The only real threat to Putin is losing the support of his billionaire cronies, the mafia that runs Russia and spreads its corruption around the world. As long as he guarantees their assets abroad—the cash and real estate and firms they have established so they and their families don't have to live in Russia—Putin is safe.

Putin talks hacking, Navalny and Capitol riot in NBC interview ahead of Biden summit

  Putin talks hacking, Navalny and Capitol riot in NBC interview ahead of Biden summit In an exclusive interview, Putin again denied that Russian hackers or the government itself were behind cyberattacks in the U.S. were "farcical," and he challenged NBC News, and by implication the U.S. government, to produce proof that Russians were involved."We have been accused of all kinds of things," Putin said. "Election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof. Just unfounded accusations.

It doesn't matter how many sanctions the US and Europe apply on Russia, even the more effective ones under the Magnitsky Act. If Putin is still recognized as the big boss by both his oligarchs and leaders around the world, he won't see any reason to change his aggressive behavior. Why should he? For Putin, a summit that elevates him to the standing of the American President will only embolden him. His thinking likely goes something like this: "Biden called me a killer, but he's still shaking my hand and smiling. I'm not going anywhere."

As for the Biden administration, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan acknowledged there were no "deliverables" ahead of the Geneva summit and explained that the meeting was "an opportunity to communicate from our president to their president what American intentions and capabilities are and to [hear] the same from their side." But why not leverage what Putin wants most -- power and status on the world stage -- and use it to demand an end to his aggression, from murder campaigns and election interference abroad to his ongoing invasion of Ukraine? Even if the US doesn't care about the demise of Russian civil society—and it's become clear over the last two decades that the West doesn't—Putin's war against the international order demands a response.

With US-Russia relations at low point, Biden, Putin each bring a wariness to Geneva summit

  With US-Russia relations at low point, Biden, Putin each bring a wariness to Geneva summit When Joe Biden meets Vladimir Putin in Geneva the West's favorite geopolitical bogeyman is not likely to get the easy pass he got from Donald TrumpThree years ago this July, former President Donald Trump stood side by side with the Russian autocrat at a press conference in Finland's capital and blithely dismissed assessments from his own intelligence agencies, defense officials and American lawmakers about Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Garry Kasparov wearing glasses and smiling at the camera © Courtesy of Garry Kasparov Garry Kasparov

Instead, all we heard was that it was important for the two leaders to meet. Why? Because it is important for them to meet! For the leader of the democratic free world, a summit isn't supposed to be a goal unto itself. Talking just to talk isn't a goal. American national security is. As is recognizing Ukrainian sovereignty, maintaining the international order and putting a stop to cyberattacks, assassination plots and attacks on dissidents. Ultimately, Biden cannot advance those objectives by normalizing Putin and dictatorships in general.

While the summit itself never should have taken place, it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. It's a blessing when bad food comes in small portions -- and the meeting between Biden and Putin was shorter than expected. Biden's supporters came out to tout their man's performance, contrasting his wise words and serious mien with Donald Trump's confused and obsequious mewling when he met Putin three years ago in Helsinki.

Boasting about a better performance than Trump is to damn with faint praise, especially where Putin is concerned. It's the results that matter. Putin doesn't care if Biden sounds strong. He doesn't care if some American journalists ask him tough questions to flaunt the fact that he cannot have them beaten or jailed the way he does their Russian counterparts. (Those tough questions, by the way, were far tamer when the translator presented them to Putin in Russian during the press conference.)

Biden-Putin summit live updates: 'I'm always ready,' Biden says

  Biden-Putin summit live updates: 'I'm always ready,' Biden says President Joe Biden will meet face-to-face with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Switzerland on Wednesday amid rising tensions between the two countries.The two men will face off inside an 18th-century Swiss villa in Geneva, situated alongside a lake in the middle of the Parc de la Grange. The fifth American president to sit down with Putin, Biden has spoken with him and met him before, in 2016.

Of course, those are all good developments. I don't wish to appear unappreciative that Biden highlighted human rights in a way his predecessor never would, or that reporters brought up Navalny's plight. But these things aren't going to change Putin's behavior, whereas the summit elevates and emboldens him.

I watched Putin's press conference after the summit meeting, but since Russians have heard most of his lies and evasions for years, there wasn't much new for me. The foreign audience seemed shocked when Putin said Navalny had only himself to blame for consciously breaking parole by leaving the country -- even though Navalny was evacuated to Germany in a poison-induced coma. He also tried to justify the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 (which he used to deny) by arguing that it had introduced "stability" after the independent nation struggled to free itself from Putin's grip. Putin also denied responsibility for cyberattacks and blamed the US for being the biggest offender.

These are examples of the absurd, reality-twisting nonsense Russians are fed 24-7 by the state-controlled media, and Putin was delighted to have the chance to spread it around the world. Had Biden wanted to send a real message to Putin, he would have met instead with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. Or with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leading opposition candidate in Belarus' sham elections last year, who is now living in exile after fleeing persecution by Putin's loyal servant Belarusian despot Alexander Lukashenko. Or Biden could have extended a White House invitation to the families of Putin's many victims.

Images of Biden's meeting with Putin show a cool but cordial dynamic as the president seeks a reset after Trump

  Images of Biden's meeting with Putin show a cool but cordial dynamic as the president seeks a reset after Trump Trump's behavior toward Putin repeatedly sparked criticism in Washington and fueled suspicions about the president's loyalties.Biden's approach to relations with Putin has marked a significant shift in the US stance toward Russia in comparison to the past four years under former President Donald Trump.

Before leaving for Geneva to meet Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, Ronald Reagan said in his address to the nation, "People don't start wars, governments do." But Putin is the only government in Russia, and he started a war on the free world. He will keep fighting it -- and winning -- until his targets fight back.

The summit was a mistake, but Biden is no fool. He can rectify the error and take measures to contain and deter Putin by targeting his oligarchs and thugs and their dirty money, as recommended by Navalny's organization. Biden can also support Ukraine and Putin's other targets, and work to remove Russia from the international organizations it manipulates and corrupts.

Biden had better start now because Putin's next attack is imminent. The glow he acquired in Geneva will begin to wane and he will need another show of strength. The Biden administration may be embarrassed to react after making an effort to woo Putin in Geneva. But if the US fails to respond, Putin will be convinced that Biden is another American paper tiger. Words are easy, action is hard.

Opinion: A big loss for Putin .
Frida Ghitis writes that by meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and letting him showcase his signature evasive style, US President Joe Biden was able to use the Russian president as a prop -- a show-and-tell for his campaign to demonstrate that authoritarianism is a malign force. Yes, the two leaders reached some agreements, such as allowing withdrawn ambassadors to return to their assigned capitals and committing to launching a "strategic dialogue" to prevent an accidental war. They will also seek progress on nuclear arms control, possible prisoner releases and other areas.

usr: 1
This is interesting!