What a difference three years makes. My post about the infamous Putin-Trump post-summit press conference was called Straight To Helsinki. It gave everyone a sinking feeling as the wannabe dictator deferred to the real thing.
The Helsinki summit definitively established that the Kaiser of Chaos was a weak and stupid man who was submissive to Tsar Vlad. Somehow the message didn’t get through to Trump’s supporters who continue to believe he’s a tough guy because he’s a dick. In my experience, dickishness is a sign of weakness as well.
The Biden-Putin meeting was as much a sip and see as a summit. A sip and see is a Southern custom whereby parents invite their family and friends to meet a new baby. The Biden administration was 147 days old when the democrat met the dictator. Many expected Putin to slap the newborn around but his tone was somewhat subdued.
If the summit was a sip and see, Putin was the cranky uncle nobody much likes but who had to be invited. He wanted to be there to show off his country’s only current claim to power: the nuclear arsenal built by the red tsars who preceded him. Otherwise, Putin’s Russia is a basket case: its economy is the same size as that of Texas. The rub is that Texas’ population is 29 million and Russia’s is 144 million.
Team Biden’s refusal to hold a joint press conference, as is customary after such meetings, was a wise one. Putin was inside at what looked more like a bunker than a ballroom. Biden appeared outside with Lake Geneva as his backdrop. It was a photo-op worthy of Team Reagan in the heyday of teevee news.
The dictator’s tone was gloomy as he fended off questions from the Western media. He seemed to view the summit as a Russian novel as indicated by this statement: “There is no happiness in life.”
The democrat’s tone was realistic. Biden wanted the meeting so Putin would know that he was serious about human rights and Russian misconduct. He has no illusions about who and what Putin is despite this exchange with a CNN reporter at the end of the presser:
Q Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior. Where the hell — what do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident? I said —
Q You said in the next six months you’ll be able to determine —
THE PRESIDENT: I said — what I said was — let’s get it straight. I said: What will change their behavior is if the rest of world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything; I’m just stating a fact.
Q But given his past behavior has not changed and, in that press conference, after sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyberattacks; he downplayed human rights abuses; he even refused to say Aleksey Navalny’s name. So how does that account to a constructive meeting, as President — President Putin framed it?
THE PRESIDENT: If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.
President Biden was vexed by this exchange with good reason. He was misquoted and “constructive” is diplo-speak for a meeting that did not blow up. The Geneva Sip and See was neither a roaring success nor a total flop. It was a constructive meeting.
The end of the press conference reminded me of how different summitry is in the 21st Century. In the 1980’s the Big 3 news anchors were NBC’s Tom Brokaw, ABC’s Peter Jennings, and CBS’ Dan Rather. They personally covered all the Reagan-Gorbachev summits. Most people can’t even name the network anchors in 2021 because the media landscape is so radically different. The only thing that’s comparable is the photo-op staged by Team Biden.
Because of the Onion’s depiction of then Vice President Biden as a wild-and-crazy guy, people tend to forget his foreign policy chops. He was chairman of the foreign relations committee as well as John Kerry’s secretary of state in waiting in 2004.
Foreign policy is Joe’s jam: he’s a seasoned pro as opposed to his predecessor who kissed up to dictators and kicked down to democrats. What a difference three years makes.
The MSM often describes Team Biden as boring and criticizes them for not immediately dealing with all the wreckage left behind by Team Trump. As Joey B Shark himself would say, “Come on, man, it’s only been 148 days.”
Tea For Two strikes me as the perfect theme song for the Geneva Sip and See. The last word goes to Oscar Peterson:
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson?