Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that he and United States (U.S.) President Joe Biden agreed in a “constructive” summit to return ambassadors to their posts, lowering tensions and beginning consultations to replace the last remaining treaty between the two countries limiting nuclear weapons.
Putin said after the summit meeting that there was “no hostility” during the talks that wrapped up more quickly than expected.
The two sides had said they expected to meet for four to five hours but spent less than three hours together, including an opening meeting with just the two presidents and each one’s top foreign aide.
When it was over, Putin had first crack at describing the results at a solo news conference, with Biden to follow with his own session with reporters.
The Russian president said there was an agreement between the leaders to return their ambassadors to their respective postings. Both countries had pulled back their top envoys to Washington and Moscow as relations chilled in recent months.
Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, was recalled from Washington about three months ago after Biden called Putin a killer. U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan left Moscow almost two months ago, after Russia suggested he return to Washington for consultations. Putin said the ambassadors were expected to return to their posts in the coming days.
Putin also said the two sides agreed in principle to begin consultations on cyber security issues, though he continued to deny U.S. allegations that Russian government was responsible for a spate of recent high-profile hacks against business and government agencies in the United States and around the globe.
Biden and Putin plunged into the face-to-face talks yesterday at a lush lakeside Swiss mansion, a highly anticipated summit at a time when both leaders say relations between their countries are at a low point.
As the two leaders appeared briefly before media at the start of the meeting, Biden called it a discussion between “two great powers” and said it was “always better to meet face-to-face.” Putin said he hoped the talks would be “productive”.
The meeting in a book-lined room had a somewhat awkward beginning — both men appeared to avoid looking directly at each other during a brief and chaotic photo opportunity before a scrum of jostling reporters.
Biden nodded when a reporter asked if Putin could be trusted, but the White House quickly sent out a tweet insisting that the president was “very clearly not responding to any one question, but nodding in acknowledgment to the press generally.”
The two leaders did shake hands — Biden extended his hand first and smiled at the stoic Russian leader — moments earlier when they posed with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland for the summit.