Vladimir Putin appears to laugh after question on Navalny
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US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have praised their talks in Geneva. However, little concrete progress seems to have been made. Mr Biden said disagreements were stated but not in a hyperbolic way, and he said Russia did not want a new Cold War.
On the other hand, Putin said Mr Biden was an experienced statesman and the two “spoke the same language”.
The talks lasted four hours, less time than was scheduled.
The two sides agreed to begin a dialogue on nuclear arms control.
They also said they would return ambassadors to each other’s capitals as envoys were mutually withdrawn for consultations in March, after the US accused Russia of meddling in the 2020 presidential election.
However, there was little sign of agreement on other issues, including cyber-security, Ukraine and the fate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a penal colony.
It is no surprise that discord between the two leaders remains.
Before the summit, both sides said relations were at rock bottom.
Moreover, while serving as Vice President, Mr Biden delivered an epic final speech to the elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he accused Mr Putin of being a threat to the liberal world order.
In 2017, he claimed Putin was using “every tool” in his power to whittle away the European project and undermine Western democracies.
Mr Biden also accused the Russian leader of wanting to “roll back decades of progress.”
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He said Russia used “cyber aggression” to meddle in the US election, an assertion supported by 17 US intelligence agencies.
He also warned we would have seen further interference from Russia in the future, adding: “The purpose is clear.
“Simply put, Putin has a different vision of the future.”
During a visit to the Kremlin in 2011, Mr Biden even told the then Prime Minister Putin that he did not believe he had “a soul”.
Mr Biden told the New Yorker magazine the incident occurred while he was touring Mr Putin’s office in the Kremlin.
He said: “I had an interpreter, and when he was showing me his office I said, ‘It’s amazing what capitalism will do, won’t it?
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“A magnificent office!’ And he laughed. As I turned, I was this close to him.”
“I said, ‘Mr Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.’”
Pressed on if the anecdote was true, Mr Biden confirmed: “Absolutely, positively.”
He added: “And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’
“This is who this guy is!”
The exchange was a play on comments former President George W Bush made after inviting Putin to visit him at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Mr Bush said at the time: “I looked the man in the eye.
“I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.
“I was able to get a sense of his soul.
“He’s a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country, and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue, and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship.”
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