Putin lavishes post-summit praise on Biden, says media have US leader wrong

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and US President Joe Biden met at a historic summit in Geneva, on June 16, 2021.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and US President Joe Biden met at a historic summit in Geneva, on June 16, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (REUTERS) – Russian President Vladimir Putin lavished praise on his US counterpart Joe Biden on Thursday (June 17), a day after the two leaders held a summit, saying Biden was incorrectly portrayed in the Russian and US media as being unfocused and vague.

Biden and Putin agreed to launch arms control and cyber-security talks at a Geneva summit on Wednesday, recording small gains and big differences at a meeting which they both described as pragmatic rather than friendly. 

The Kremlin said earlier on Thursday it had been pleased with what it called a positive summit and singled out a joint statement that reiterated the need to avoid nuclear war as significant. 

Speaking to university graduates by video link later on Thursday, Putin, 68, had only warm words for Biden, 78, in contrast to Russian state media which has sometimes portrayed the US president as struggling to do his job both physically and mentally.

“I want to say that the image of President Biden that our press and even the American press paints has nothing in common with reality,” Putin told the graduates.

“He was on a long trip, had flown across the Ocean, and had to contend with jet lag and the time difference. When I fly it takes its toll. But he looked cheerful, we spoke face-to-face for two or maybe more hours. He’s completely across his brief,” said Putin.  

"Biden is a professional, and you have to be very careful in working with him to make sure you don’t miss anything. He doesn’t miss anything, I can assure you.”

Earlier, Putin’s spokesman said on Thursday the summit had also laid the ground for what he described as really tough technical talks on a potential prisoner swap between Russia and the United States.

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman, said the lists of prisoners to be potentially exchanged still needed to be sorted out but was much wider than those publicly discussed.

He said negotiations would obviously have to be conducted quietly and in secret.

Peskov, who attended the summit himself, said it had broadly unfolded as Russia had expected and that the meeting, from a Kremlin viewpoint, had gone smoothly. 

“It went off rather well, with a plus sign,” Dmitry Peskov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.  “It was productive in the sense that the two leaders had the chance to directly explain their positions, more or less understand where they can cooperate, and where right now they can’t cooperate because of categorical differences in their views. That also happened and that’s also a plus,” he said. 

Peskov singled out a joint statement that reaffirmed the two countries’ belief that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

“It may be a short statement but...it reflects the special responsibility of our two countries not only before our own peoples but, as pretentious as it may sound, before the whole world,” said Peskov.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister said separately that Moscow expected arms control talks with the United States, that were agreed at the summit, to start within weeks.

He said Moscow felt reassured by the joint statement on the need to never wage nuclear war and to start arms control talks.

“The confirmation of the formula that there can be no winner in a nuclear war and that one must not be waged is a significant achievement,” Ryabkov told the Kommersant daily newspaper. 

“Frankly speaking, we had growing concerns in recent years about Washington’s readiness to support this. This is not a figure of speech or lofty words but simply a reflection of reality.”