(Brussels) US President Joe Biden often talks about what he sees as essential in foreign policy: building personal relationships. However, there seems to be an exception to this rule: Vladimir Putin.
Unlike his four most recent predecessors in the White House, who made an effort to establish some relations with the Russian president, Joe Biden has made clear that virtue has its limits.
The two men are scheduled to meet face to face on Wednesday in Geneva. Since his last meeting with Mr. Putin 10 years ago, Joe Biden has been happy to tell an anecdote he told the Russian leader: “Prime Minister, I look deep in your eyes and I don’t think you have a soul.”
To which Vladimir Putin would have answered: “We both understand each other.”
At the time of this meeting, Mr. Putin gave up his presidential seat to take over as Prime Minister because the constitution did not allow any president to run for a third term. He was still seen as the true ruler of Russia despite his title. For his part, Joe Biden was then Vice President in Barack Obama’s administration.
Joe Biden’s comment was intended as a point to former President George W. Bush, who was mocked after his first meeting with Mr. Putin when he said that after “looking a man’s eye”, he was able to “understand his soul”. “.
But this anecdote also serves as a model for Joe Biden to show that he sees clearly in the Russian leader’s game, unlike his perhaps deceived predecessors.
Now is the time for a new meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin as relations between the United States and Russia seem to be deteriorating day by day. Mr. Biden has repeatedly defied his counterpart and imposed numerous sanctions against Russian entities and individuals in Mr. Putin’s vicinity. This is all due to allegations of interference in the 2020 presidential election and cyber attacks against federal agencies.
Despite these sanctions, Vladimir Putin remained unresponsive. Attacks attributed to Russian hackers have disrupted the operations of a major pipeline as well as the operations of the world’s largest meat distributor. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.
According to former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who attended the infamous 2011 face-to-face meeting, Joe Biden may display greater skepticism and likely have a more informed opinion about Vladimir Putin than his predecessors.
His knowledge of the area may be better than anyone else before him, McFaul said. Biden has spent time in Georgia. Spent a lot of time in Ukraine. I traveled with him to Moldova and he spent a lot of time in the far eastern NATO countries. He has visited all these places and heard all the stories of aggression and threats from Russia. ”
As president, Joe Biden has already announced that he will take a much different approach to his relationship with Mr. Putin than Donald Trump, who has shown extraordinary respect for the Russian president.
During his first visit to the State Department in February, Joe Biden told agency staff that kneeling to Putin was over. In an interview with ABC, he took it one step further by claiming that Putin was a murderer.
The White House indicated that the two presidents would not attend a joint press conference. Joe Biden is still expected to address the media after the meeting scheduled for Wednesday.