In a positive conference on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden agreed to restore their ambassadors to their posts and begin negotiations to replace the final remaining nuclear weapons treaty between the two countries.
Putin said that there was no antagonism during the meetings, which ended earlier than scheduled.
The two sides had agreed to meet for four to five hours, but they only spent less than three hours together, including an introductory discussion with only the two presidents and their senior foreign aides.
When it was finished, Putin was the first to speak about the results at a single press conference. Following that, Biden held a press conference of his own.
Putin admitted that Biden brought up human rights issues with him, particularly opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s fate. Putin justified Navalny’s prison sentence and deflected repeated inquiries about Russian opposition leaders’ abuse by pointing to domestic unrest in the United States, such as the Black Lives Matter marches and the January 6 Capitol insurgency.
Putin spoke for about an hour in front of international journalists. While he remained defiant in the face of questions about Biden pressuring him on human rights, he also professed tremendous respect for Biden as a seasoned politician.
Putin remarked on Biden’s repeated insightful counsel from his mother, as well as his family messages, which he said was not fully relevant to their summit but highlighted Biden’s moral principles. Putin said that Biden was someone he could work with, despite his doubts that the US-Russia relationship would soon return to a state of balance like it had been in the past.
Putin claimed that the meeting was quite productive. It was substantial and precise. Its goal was to achieve certain outcomes, one of which was to push back the boundaries of trust.Putin and Biden said they agreed to start talks on a nuclear deal that might replace the New START pact, which limits nuclear weapons, when it expires in 2026.
In response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and military engagement in support of separatists in eastern Ukraine, Washington halted discussions with Moscow in 2014. The talks restarted in 2017, but lacked traction, and the Trump administration was unable to reach an agreement on extending the New START treaty.
The Russian president stated that the two leaders had reached an agreement to return their ambassadors to their respective posts. As relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent months, both governments have withdrawn their senior envoys to Washington and Moscow.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, was summoned from Washington about three months ago after Vice President Joe Biden called Putin a murderer; US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan left Moscow almost two months ago after Russia requested that he return to Washington for consultations. The ambassadors are expected to return to their postings in the coming days, according to Putin.
Putin also stated that the two sides had reached an agreement in principle to begin consultations on cybersecurity issues, though he denied US accusations that the Russian government was behind a series of high-profile hacks against businesses and government agencies in the United States and around the world.
During a brief and chaotic photo opportunity in front of a swarm of jostling media, both men appeared to avoid looking directly at one other during the encounter in a book-lined room.