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Biden and Putin Express Desire for Better Relations at Summit

  • June 17, 2021

But the contrasts between that session and this one spoke volumes. Reagan had famously called the Soviet Union the “evil empire,” but he and Gorbachev spent hours talking inside and outside, dined together, and tried to get to know each other. In the hours before Mr. Biden’s encounter with Mr. Putin, his aides made clear that they would not break bread, and that the meetings would be formal ones.

Though it was a beautiful day, and they were meeting on a former estate that had trails down to the lake, they never explored the gardens, or left the impression they were trying to get to know each other. It was purely business, Mr. Biden said. It ended an hour earlier than administration officials had anticipated.

The meeting was performed with delicate choreography, seemingly designed to avoid a display of any camaraderie. Mr. Putin arrived first, straight from the airport, and was greeted on the red carpet in front of a lakeside villa by President Guy Parmelin of Switzerland. About 15 minutes later, Mr. Biden arrived in his motorcade, shook hands with Mr. Parmelin and waved to reporters.

The Swiss president welcomed the two leaders, wishing them “fruitful dialogue in the interest of your two countries and the whole world.” He then stepped aside, allowing Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin to approach each other, smiling, and shake hands.

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