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After Putin Meeting, a Biden Trait Shows Itself Again: Stubborn Optimism

  • June 17, 2021

To listen to Mr. Biden at his news conference, one could easily conclude that the meeting with Mr. Putin had been a resounding success. The president noted an agreement with Russia to begin work on a new arms-control agreement. The trick, he said, is to figure out what his adversary’s interests are. In Mr. Putin’s case, he wants “legitimacy, standing in the world stage,” Mr. Biden said. “They desperately want to be relevant.”

That kind of unrestrained positivity has already opened him to the charge that he’s naïve, unwilling to see the reality staring at him across the table. It will also raise questions about whether he’s willing to confront looming challenges: Russia’s aggression at NATO’s eastern border, damaging cyberattacks from inside Russia and the country’s worsening human rights record.

But Mr. Biden’s approach is unlikely to change. He has tried to set an optimistic tone since he entered the Oval Office. He has pushed for bipartisanship on passage of his domestic agenda, even as many, if not most, of his allies in Washington are eager to abandon the courtship of Republicans amid growing pessimism that it will ever be consummated.

In his efforts to confront the coronavirus pandemic, he has regularly expressed a belief that Americans will emerge stronger and safer, while some health experts have been more cautious in their predictions. Mr. Biden can be the ultimate cheerleader, as he was in his first address to Congress.

“It’s never ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America, and it still isn’t,” he said that night.

In foreign policy, Mr. Biden is an old-school diplomat who places his faith in face-to-face conversations like the one he had with Mr. Putin on Wednesday and the many exchanges he had with other leaders at the Group of 7, NATO and European Union summits over the past week.

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