Full Details of Biden – Putin Meeting in Geneva
United States President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have agreed to hold talks on arms control and cybersecurity and to return their respective ambassadors to their posts, after a summit in Geneva that Putin described as “constructive”.
The talks on Wednesday were the first meeting between the pair since Biden took office in January, and lasted for several hours.
Prior to the summit, expectations for any substantial breakthroughs had been low, with Moscow and Washington both openly cool on the prospects of significant progress. The pair are currently at odds over a range of issues from arms control and cyber-hacking to election interference and Ukraine.
After the summit, Putin said there was “no hostility” during the “constructive” summit and Biden described the talks as “positive”, as the two leaders held separate press conferences.
Addressing reporters following the meeting, Putin acknowledged that Biden raised human rights issues with him, including the fate of the imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the treatment of protesters in Russia. Without naming him, Putin defended Navalny’s prison sentence
Reporting from Geneva, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said Putin deflected the questions and instead tried to focus on domestic unrest in the US, citing the Black Lives Matter protests as the type of “disorder” he was seeking to prevent in Russia. He also criticised the arrests of hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC, on January 6.
“He really defended his behaviour and seemed to deflect and redirect away from the criticism from the west on the crackdown on democratic freedoms and protesters and said the US is in no position to criticise,” Halkett said.
Biden said later that any comparison between what happened on January 6 and the Black Lives Matter movement was “ridiculous.”
“It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through a cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer and be held accountable, than it is for people objecting, marching on the Capitol and saying you are not allowing me to speak freely.”
Putin also said Moscow and Washington will begin discussions on possible changes to the New START arms control treaty after it expires in 2026, adding that the two countries are responsible for nuclear strategic stability.
Signed in 2010, the New START treaty limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy.
Putin also said Russia had provided exhaustive information to the US on cyberattacks and that the two sides agreed to start “consultations on cybersecurity”.
Biden said the two sides had agreed to further discussions on keeping certain types of critical infrastructure off-limits to cyberattacks. Biden also said they will have additional talks on the pursuit of criminals carrying out ransomware attacks.
The US president told reporters that 16 types of critical infrastructure should be off-limits to cyberattacks, “period”. He said that includes the energy and water sector.
It comes after a ransomware attack in May on one of the largest pipeline operators in the US forced the shutdown of fuel supplies to much of the East Coast for nearly a week. That attack has been blamed on a Russian criminal group. Russia has not cooperated with criminal investigations of ransomware and does not extradite suspects to the US.
Regarding Ukraine’s potential NATO membership, the Russian leader said there was nothing of substance to discuss. He also accused Kyiv of breaching an agreement to halt a conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“The meeting was actually very efficient,” Putin said. “It was substantive, it was specific. It was aimed at achieving results, and one of them was pushing back the frontiers of trust.”
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Geneva, said the talks did not amount to a breakthrough in relations but that it appeared that tensions between the two sides were lowering.
“The two ambassadors going back to their posts means more dialogue going forward,” he said. “Diplomats will tell you you have to be realistic here. Putin has been in power for over 2 decades so you are not going to change how he operates, or how he runs Russia. What you can try and do is to manage that relationship.
“What the Russians always want is to maintain a seat at the talk table. they are permanent UN Security Council members and they are proud of that. Putin seems very comfortable in that position and it seems he likes the recognition that sitting down with Biden gives him.”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES