Experts weigh in on the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva

By Susan D’Agostino | June 17, 2021

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva yesterday during a time when US-Russian relations have reached a post-Cold War low. Biden arrived with no shortage of grievances concerning Russia, including interference in US elections, human rights abuses, the buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border, the jailing of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, the SolarWinds cyberattack, and ransomware attacks. Putin, of course, had his own set of complaints about alleged US human rights violations and cyberattacks.

While few experts expected significant gains in those areas, some expressed modest hope that the two leaders might revive nuclear arms control discussions that have otherwise foundered in recent years. “Even the Cold War leaders never failed to talk about nuclear disarmament,” Konstantin Sonin, a Russian scholar living in the United States, wrote recently in the Bulletin.

Biden once accused Putin of not having a soul, to which Putin reportedly responded, “I see we understand each other.” Here, top nuclear experts offer a variety of viewpoints on whether the two presidents managed to understand each other enough at the Geneva summit to identify a possible path towards security and peace.

Biden and Putin signaled an openness for substantive talk

The Biden-Putin summit suggested at least a willingness—on both sides—to talk, and to do so substantively.

The Biden-Putin summit was a necessary messaging exercise

It may make sense to consider this summit more of a messaging exercise to set up future success. After four years of drift and chaos, perhaps that is as much as one might have hoped for from this meeting.

After Geneva: Will Self-Interest Suffice?

In Geneva, President Joe Biden said that future cooperation with Russia would be based not on trust but on US self-interest. If Putin thinks the same way, the two might cooperate so long as doing so appeared to be in their self-interest. But can far-reaching security accords be signed and implemented without mutual trust?

Biden to Putin in Geneva: There’s a new sheriff in town.

No great breakthroughs or dramatic developments were expected at the Biden-Putin summit, and none was achieved. But the message was clear: There is a new sheriff in town. Putin noticed, describing Biden as very different from Trump—experienced, balanced, and professional.

What role will America’s European allies play after the Biden-Putin summit?

President Joe Biden held a summit with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Yet there was no mention of any substantive role for America’s European allies in this future diplomatic process. This omission comes as a surprise, particularly when the United States is working hard to assure allies of its security guarantees.

Next step in arms control: Putin must be pragmatic

The June 16 Geneva Summit produced little mention of arms control, and that is probably a positive sign. Arms control agreements, at least good ones, do not appear overnight.

A pragmatic turn in Geneva

The Biden-Putin summit in Geneva did not disappoint the very low expectations set out for it. To move beyond symbolism and signaling, however, the Biden-Putin proclamation has to be translated into practical progress.

The Biden-Putin summit from the eyes of a Geneva local

As a resident of Geneva, I had a chance to see the US-Russian summit from a perspective that usually escapes the international audience or journalists who descend on a city at the center of international attention. 

Biden in Geneva: Strategic stability is a conduit for arms control

The agenda of the bilateral summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin was jam-packed. It was no surprise, however, that the sole joint statement issued was on the topic of strategic stability. This is perhaps one of the few areas where US and Russian interests do and must converge.


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Thomas Schmidt
Thomas Schmidt
5 months ago

It is good that the speechlessness in terms of strengthening strategic stability and minimizing risk is ending. The only thing I find alarming is such assessments as Mr. Miller’s saying “There’s a new sheriff in town.” This attitude is the source of all problems in the world and especially in the relations between USA/NATO and Russia or China. The U.S. is not the global police force and POTUS is not a world sheriff. Until this changes, the result will always be that there will be tensions and denials. Mankind has to deal with three really existential problems: Nuclear weapons. Climate… Read more »