What happened on U.S.-Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland
Updated 03:50, 17-Jun-2021

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met in their first face-to-face summit in Geneva, Switzerland. The two presidents held separate press conferences afterwards. Neither side announced major consensus on concrete actions, but both leaders said the meeting was "constructive" and there was "no hostility" during the talks.

Their meeting lasted for about three hours, which was shorter than the previously announced schedule of five hours. 

Relations have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria, and U.S. charges - denied by Moscow - of meddling in the 2016 election that brought Donald Trump to the White House. They sank further in March when Biden said he thought Putin was a "killer", prompting Russia to recall its ambassador to Washington for consultations. The United States recalled its ambassador in April. After their meeting, Putin says he and Biden agreed to return ambassadors to posts in a bid to lower tensions.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin meet for the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland June 16, 2021.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin meet for the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland June 16, 2021.

What did Putin have to say about being called a "killer" by Biden?

Putin on Biden

In a press conference following their meeting, Putin called Biden "an experienced statesman" who was "very different from his predecessor, President Trump". When asked how much he trusted Biden, Putin said there is “a factor of trust”, and it is “not a family-based trust.” Although Biden had said he would put pressure on Russia prior to the meeting, Putin said he “didn’t experience pressure”, but there were candid exchanges. Putin said that there were no personal or diplomatic deviations from the goals of the talk.

On being called a "killer"

Responding to Biden’s earlier accusation that he thought Putin was a “killer”, Putin said, “Am I a killer? How do we define killer? People die all the time.” He said in the U.S. the police just shot a black woman in the back, in Afghanistan, drones kill groups of civilians and the U.S. says these were mistakes. “But who is responsible?” Putin asked.

On the media

Putin said the distortion of his image in U.S. media is something he has lived with for decades. He spoke about how two Russian press outlets - RT and Sputnik - were both forced to register as foreign agents in the U.S which hindered their ability to report freely. He said that the Russian agencies have complied with all U.S. rules and regulations but U.S. press agencies operating in Russia do not follow Russian laws and regulations. When a journalist asked Putin to explain to her 9-year-old daughter “what’s the big deal” for the summit and the Russia-U.S. relations. Putin said to make the world a safer and more reliable place, Russia and the U.S. should address together “issues of terrible weapons”, environment protection, food safety and healthcare. He called on reporters to cover this summit fairly “based on these considerations.”

On sanctions

When asked about U.S. sanctions against Russia, Putin said, "There's no reason to meet each other, and threaten, and exchange verbal attacks. We don't know what's brewing in the American political apparatus. Who will prevail? Who's to say? Hopefully, constructive steps will be made after this session."

U.S. President Biden met the press after his summit with his Russian counterpart Putin.

U.S. President Biden met the press after his summit with his Russian counterpart Putin.

Biden: "I did what I came to do" in talks with Putin

In a press conference following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Joe Biden said he saw a "glimpse of hope" regarding mutual trust between the two nations, though he could not predict whether relations would improve. Biden said that at his meeting with Putin in Geneva, he told Putin that the two countries "need some basic rules of the road we can all abide by", adding, "I did what I came to do."

Biden on Putin

Biden said, "I think the last thing he [Putin] wants right now is a cold war." Biden added, "He's still concerned we are trying to encircle him, he is still concerned we are trying to take him down, but I don't think that's what's motivating him."

On his priorities in meeting Putin

U.S. President Biden said in his meeting with Russian President Putin, "My agenda isn't against Russia, it's for the American people." Biden also said it was important to meet Putin in person so there would be no mistake about the issues Biden considers crucial. These issues included strategic stability and arms measures to reduce the prospect of “accidental war” between the two nations and improve cyber security.

On elections and alleged election interference

When asked about alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections, Biden said Putin knows "there are consequences". Biden also said he thinks it's a “ridiculous comparison” for Putin to say the U.S. Capitol attackers are similar to protesters in Russia. Russia had said that if there were no crackdowns on the opposition protesters, Russia would see a scenario similar to the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

On U.S. sanctions against Russia

When asked about sanctions, Biden said, "I don't have any problem doing business with Russia, as long as they follow international norms."

On foreign policy

Biden said he and Putin shared a mutual interest in making sure Iran does not have nuclear weapons. Biden also raised issues regarding imprisoned Putin critic Alexei Navalny, the resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan, and maintaining humanitarian corridors in Syria. 

He said Putin agreed to, "help on Afghanistan, and help on Iran, and bring physical security to the people of Syria and Libya." Biden also said he talked about Ukraine and Belarus with Putin. He said both sides agreed to “pursue diplomacy” on Ukraine. Biden said Putin agreed with him on what happened in Belarus, but had a different perspective about what to do about it.

On China

When asked a question about how Biden and Putin addressed China in their summit, Biden did not answer the question directly. He said China is “trying very hard” to project a good image of helping the world fight the pandemic, but it’s the result that matters. 

Biden questioned if China is “trying to get to the bottom of this.” He then talked about building a “physical mechanism” for the world to detect the next virus and respond. 

Earlier, China urged to the U.S. to deal with the virus in a responsible manner, take actions for its promises, and share the COVID-19 vaccines with the world. China also said it had provided the world over 350 million vaccines, but while the U.S. had pledged to donate 500 million doses, very few of those had been delivered.

Closing remark

At the end of Biden's press conference, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins asked why Biden kept saying he’s “confident” about changing Putin’s mind and had a “constructive” summit with Putin, when almost no consensus was reached. Biden responded, "You are in the wrong business". 

Biden subsequently stopped before boarding Air Force One to apologize to Collins for being a "wise guy". Collins said it was "completely unnecessary" but appreciated Biden's apology. She says she was just doing her job.

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