Biden and Putin barely make eye contact as they exchange frosty handshake
All eyes were on Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin as they kicked off their summit on Wednesday, June 16, with a handshake outside the Geneva villa where the two leaders plan to discuss wide-ranging bilateral issues between the United States and Russia.
The two presidents greeted each other after standing with their host, Swiss President Guy Parmelin, outside the La Grange villa overlooking Lake Geneva. Biden and Putin are set to meet for up to five hours for a conversation around cyber-attacks, election meddling, rights abuses, and several other contentious issues that are on the agenda.
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Sitting on either side of a globe at the plush villa's renowned library, the two leaders exchanged a few cordial remarks with their respective flags in the backdrop. Putin struck a positive note, saying he hoped the "meeting will be productive" as the tete-a-tete opened. He thanked Biden "for your initiative to meet today."
"The US and Russian relations have a lot of issues accumulated that require the highest-level meeting," he said, adding, "I hope that our meeting will be productive."
"It's always better to meet face to face," Biden responded as the two men sat down with their top diplomats at the start of the summit.
Parmelin told the pair before the discussions ensued that it was "an honor and a pleasure for Switzerland to host you here for this summit, and in accordance with its tradition of good offices, promote dialogue and mutual understanding. I wish you both presidents a fruitful dialogue in the interests of your two countries and the world."
🤝 Presidents' Vladimir Putin & Joe Biden first handshake 🇷🇺🇺🇸 #RussiaUS pic.twitter.com/YGu04O4MNJ— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) June 16, 2021
Netizens reacted to the "superpower handshake" on social media, chiming on the finer details.
"No power moves from Putin - arrives on time, much smaller security than Biden’s beast and handshake. Doors closed for a 4-5 hour meeting," Bloomberg reporter Maria Tadeo observed.
"Putin and Biden doing proper handshakes, none of that fist-bump nonsense. That’s good to see," one Twitter user commented.
"If Biden looked Putin in the eye with a smile and Putin looked away, that means Putin won the handshake. He didn't take this meeting because he wants to be friends with Biden, he took it to highlight and exploit Biden's weakness. And weakness is what Biden showed by smiling," another added.
"I lay 6:5 odds that Biden does not throw his intelligence community under the bus. Even money that he actually believes them over Putin. Let's see," a third quipped.
"Handshakes are back. Who knew?" another joked.
Putin and Biden doing proper handshakes, none of that fist-bump nonsense. That’s good to see.— Nelson Jones (@Heresy_Corner) June 16, 2021
No power moves from Putin - arrives on time, much smaller security than Biden’s beast and handshake. Doors closed for a 4-5 hour meeting— Maria Tadeo (@mariatad) June 16, 2021
If Biden looked Putin in the eye with a smile and Putin looked away, that means Putin won the handshake. He didn't take this meeting because he wants to be friends with Biden, he took it to highlight and exploit Biden's weakness. And weakness is what Biden showed by smiling.— HamSandwich27™ (@HamSandwich27) June 16, 2021
Handshakes are back. Who knew?— At the Regal Beagle (@scoopfurly13) June 16, 2021
Biden and Putin have traded sharp rhetoric for months now, with the US President repeatedly blaming his Russian counterpart for malicious cyberattacks on US interests, displaying a disregard for democracy by jailing his dissidents, as well as Russia's alleged involvement in US elections.
In response, Putin has pointed to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol to argue that the US is in no position to lecture on democratic norms. He has insisted that his government hasn't been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks aimed at the US government.
EARLIER: When asked by @keirsimmons about Alexei Navalny's poisoning, Putin deflects by bringing up the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. #MTPDaily— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) June 14, 2021
Putin: "They came to the Congress with political demands. Isn’t that persecution for political opinions?" pic.twitter.com/fWKYOLXIbA
Both sides set out to lower expectations prior to the meeting on June 16. Biden, however, said it would be an important step forward if the two superpowers were able to find “stability and predictability” in their relationship.
“We should decide where it’s in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that,” Biden told reporters earlier this week. “And the areas where we don’t agree, make it clear what the red lines are.”
Speaking to the Associated Press on Wednesday, June 16, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that no breakthroughs were expected and that “the situation is too difficult in Russian-American relations.” He added that “the fact that the two presidents agreed to meet and finally start to speak openly about the problems is already an achievement.”