The Critique: Biden had grins, hugs and “love” for allies. But will not offer a morsel of bread to Putin. https://t.co/29RUaeW70k
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 16, 2021
… In the visual record of Biden’s interactions with his G-7 counterparts in Cornwall and the leaders of the NATO alliance in Brussels, during his official arrival in Geneva in advance of a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Biden telegraphed ease — even though none of the problems he must contend with are easy. In his public gestures and expressions, Biden painted a portrait of civility, good humor and control as he stood alongside America’s friends.
There’s diplomacy in the details, in the aesthetic grace notes. And in the empty spaces.
For his meeting with Putin on Wednesday, his administration has made it plain that there will be no side-by-side news conference. No mutual answering of questions. During their conversation, there will be no meal. No bread will be broken, but presumably there will, at least, be water.
So much has changed in the vividly fraught relationship between America and its allies and its stubbornly credulous relationship with Russia these past four years. When Macron first met then-President Donald Trump, their long handshake might well have set a record. It was akin to an arm-wrestling match, as each man’s knuckles turned white and their jaws clenched. Their subsequent encounters included handshakes that were tests of endurance and brute strength, with at least one instance of the American yanking on the Frenchman’s hand as if he were prepared to wrestle him to the mat.
But after an administration whose public stance was defined by anger and chest-thumping — and the actual shoving of other world leaders — Biden’s every “hello” is a course correction for the historical record. He and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg engaged in a shoulder-clasping tête-à-tête in Brussels while visiting the memorial to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The president arrived in Geneva and returned the Swiss gesture of placing one’s hand over one’s heart in a warm and fuzzy welcome. And as some countries begin to see signs of a dissipating pandemic, the diplomatic handshake — so maligned, so germy and yet so deeply ingrained — has made a comeback, but without the palpable animosity of the Trump years…
The visuals don’t tell the full story of policies and negotiations. But they do tell us something about the intent, and the tone — about the way in which one wants to be seen. Biden’s walk across the international stage has been both considered and considerate.
He wrapped his allies in an embrace. And he promised not to give bread and comfort to his adversaries.
“Joe Biden wants a relationship with Russia that is stable & predictable. Trouble is, unpredictability is Vladimir Putin’s thing.” Our summit preview from Geneva. Producer @BBCWillVernon Camera/edit @mattgodtv @BBCNews @BBCWorld #GenevaSummit pic.twitter.com/rFImSBd3ho
— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) June 15, 2021
President Biden flew to Geneva where he will, for the first time since taking office, meet face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting comes as relations between Washington and Moscow are at their most fraught in years https://t.co/0c2IumFuGO pic.twitter.com/rhBNrfiJeO
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 16, 2021