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Biden-Putin Geneva meeting: White House defends stunted summit as US president sorry for snapping at reporter

·2-min read
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP)

The presidents of Russia and the United States faced off over human rights, cyber attacks, and the hope of strategic stability in a historic summit in Geneva that ended quicker than expected.

The two leaders shook hands as Biden said it was “always better to meet face to face”, while Putin said he hoped for a “productive” meeting.

Forgoing the usual joint press conference, Vladimir Putin appeared defiant talking to reporters after the summit while Joe Biden lost his temper when challenged on his diplomatic ability to influence Russia toward international norms.

Biden told reporters he pressed Putin on the detention of Alexei Navalny, warning there would be "devastating" consequences for Russia if the opposition leader died in prison.

He also issued a thinly veiled threat on cybercrime and ransomware attacks, asking how he would feel if hackers based in Florida attacked Russia’s oil pipeline. "Not that we would do that," Biden told reporters.

Putin dismissed attacks of the country’s human rights records, suggesting his crackdown on political dissents was no different to the US’s crackdown on rioters who stormed the US Capitol on 6 January.

Biden snapped at a female reporter and questioned her qualifications to do the job when asked how the summit could have been constructive given Mr Putin downplayed human rights abuses and refused to say Mr Navalny’s name.

"If you don’t understand that you’re in the wrong business," Mr Biden said.

Following the summit, the White House began defending the truncated run-time of the leaders’ meeting, which clocked in under three hours despite being on the calendar for five.

Mr Biden himself told reporters after the summit that he had discussed everything he wanted and “after two hours, we looked at each other like: OK, what’s next?"

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