The summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin did not provide any dramatic moments and that is a good thing. We do not need drama between the leaders of the two major nuclear powers. What we need is evidence that they are cautiously taking each other’s measure and trying to find common ground in dealing with the issues that are really important to both countries and the world, and not trying to score media points by throwing tantrums.
This article discusses what the summit achieved.
During their hours-long summit, the first between the two leaders since Biden took office in January, the leaders pledged to have regular negotiations to try and lay the groundwork for future arms control agreements and to return their respective ambassadors to their posts.
“From the very beginning, we warned against exaggerated expectations in connection with this summit,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. “But now we can say, primarily based on the assessment by the president himself, that it was more with a plus sign.”
During the summit, both sides rejected the possibility of a nuclear war, which was according to Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, a moment of “real success”.
Ryabkov told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper the move was “Washington’s second step in restoring common sense and a responsible approach to key aspects of international security” following the extension of the New START nuclear treaty under Biden earlier this year.
At a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday after the summit, Putin said it was “hard to say” if relations between the US and Russia would improve, but that there was a “glimpse of hope”.
He called Biden a constructive, experienced partner, and said they spoke “the same language”. But he added that there had been no friendship, rather a pragmatic dialogue about the two countries’ interests.
For sane people, the result that the leaders of the two major nuclear powers will continue to have a ‘pragmatic dialogue’ on important issues of common interest has to be seen as a positive outcome. But this is not going to please the perpetual Cold War warriors who no doubt wanted Biden to be bellicose and lay down all manner of ultimatums and lines in the sand and were looking for signs that the exchanges had been confrontational.
Trump is also likely to be annoyed. He had often boasted about how Putin had called him a genius which was yet another of his false claims. But now Putin has spoken of Biden in favorable terms.
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.
Putin described the ambience of the talks as friendly and praised Biden’s professionalism. He said the US leader knew what he wanted to achieve and acted “skilfully”.
“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.
“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.”
Putin is no fool. He knows what international diplomacy involves, when to be conciliatory and when to be adversarial, unlike the armchair Cold Warriors who want all belligerence all the time.
Biden is now reportedly contemplating a summit with China’s president Xi Jinping, perhaps following the G20 meeting in October that both will attend. Bernie Sanders has called for the US to also foster better relations and cooperation with China and not try to forge an anti-China consensus with the G7 nations. In the process, he takes aim at the Washington elite consensus that seeks confrontation.
Following President Joe Biden’s attempt to use the 47th G7 summit last week as a tool for building an anti-China consensus, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday published an article in Foreign Affairs imploring U.S. leaders: “Don’t start another Cold War.”
“The unprecedented global challenges that the United States faces today—climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, massive economic inequality, terrorism, corruption, authoritarianism—are shared global challenges,” writes Sanders (I-Vt.). “They cannot be solved by any one country acting alone. They require increased international cooperation—including with China, the most populous country on Earth.”
“It is distressing and dangerous, therefore, that a fast-growing consensus is emerging in Washington that views the U.S.-Chinese relationship as a zero-sum economic and military struggle,” he says. “The prevalence of this view will create a political environment in which the cooperation that the world desperately needs will be increasingly difficult to achieve.”
Trying to tone down the Cold War rhetoric will not be easy. There are vast fortunes being made by many parties, especially in the defense industries, in ratcheting up military threats.
“It is no surprise that today, in a climate of relentless fearmongering about China, the country is experiencing an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes,” Sanders writes. “Right now, the United States is more divided than it has been in recent history. But the experience of the last two decades should have shown us that Americans must resist the temptation to try to forge national unity through hostility and fear.”
“In the United States, handing billions more in taxpayer dollars to corporations and the Pentagon while inflaming bigotry will not serve these goals.”
“The growing bipartisan push for a confrontation with China will set back those goals and risks empowering authoritarian, ultra-nationalistic forces in both countries,” says Sanders. “It will also deflect attention from the shared common interests the two countries have in combating truly existential threats such as climate change, pandemics, and the destruction that a nuclear war would bring.”
The capitalist system that exists in the US has a built-in dynamic that favors war and confrontation. That is why the US seems to be perpetually engaged in wars around the world.