By showing earlier than cameras collectively just for a number of moments in the beginning of their assembly, Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin gave little indication of non-public chemistry. They shook palms however shared little of the body-language bonhomie that Mr. Trump did with Mr. Putin. In a single small space of commonality, Mr. Biden gave a pair of his favourite aviator sun shades to Mr. Putin, who additionally loves sporting shades. And Mr. Putin famous that Mr. Biden shared tales about his mom, as he typically does.
They every voiced their divergent positions afterward, with Mr. Biden condemning Russian cyberattacks, worldwide aggression and home oppression and Mr. Putin participating in his typical what-about protection by citing objectionable American actions. In a truculent tone, Mr. Putin even defended his crackdown on nonviolent opposition figures like Mr. Navalny by saying he needed to keep away from an revolt just like the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol, a comparability Mr. Biden referred to as “ridiculous.” However they saved their criticisms from turning into private.
“It was businesslike, it was skilled,” mentioned Angela E. Stent, a former nationwide intelligence officer on Russia and creator of books about Mr. Putin and the West. “Neither of them actually gave floor on something. However they appeared to have established one thing that may very well be a working relationship.”
Fiona Hill, who as Mr. Trump’s senior Russia adviser was so alarmed by his deference to Mr. Putin in Helsinki that she has mentioned she considered faking a medical emergency to finish the session, referred to as this assembly a marked distinction. “It simply feels extra skilled on each side,” she mentioned.
Whereas Mr. Biden is sunnier and Mr. Putin extra dour, they’re each seasoned political leaders beneath no illusions about one another. “Each of them are realists,” she mentioned. “There’s no person getting into there with excessive expectations.”
Mr. Biden is simply the most recent in an extended line of American presidents compelled to determine how you can take care of Mr. Putin, a two-decade story of misjudgment, exasperation and bitterness. A onetime Ok.G.B. colonel who reversed Russia’s halting post-Soviet experiment with democracy and consolidated energy within the palms of a small, well-heeled ruling clique, Mr. Putin has defied all method of American attraction, inducement, strain and punishment.
President Invoice Clinton was the primary to work together with Mr. Putin after he turned prime minister and thought of him “powerful sufficient to carry Russia collectively,” as he later put it in his memoir, however felt dismissed by the brand new chief who appeared tired of doing enterprise with a departing American president.