Although he said at the top of his press conference that he didn’t think there was “any kind of hostility” between him and Biden, Putin launched a familiar rant of anti-American whataboutism to deflect criticism of the Russian Federation.
Asked by CNN about cyber attacks against US institutions from Russian soil, Putin spoke of cyber attacks against Russia. “Regarding cybersecurity, we have agreed that we will start consultations on this issue and I think this is extremely important. Obviously, both sides have to take certain obligations there,” he also said. .
When asked about Russia’s crackdown on domestic political opposition – particularly the arrest of Alexey Navalny – the Russian president even suggested that the well-known dissident actually wanted to be arrested.
“This man knew he was breaking Russian law. He was convicted twice … He consciously wanted to break the law. He did exactly what he wanted to do. So what kind of discussion can we do. have (about him)? ”
Regular observers of the Russian president are used to this level of trust and contempt. Putin is a man so sure of his absolute power at home that he can meet the most powerful person in the world with next to nothing to lose.
What putin left with
The optics of the summit were almost adapted to Putin’s national needs. The meetings were requested by the United States which, as far as the Kremlin is concerned, confirms that Putin is a leader of similar stature to the American president.
“This is exactly what the Kremlin wants. Speaking to the United States on an equal footing and in such a way that the other side does not demand a change of position as a condition of dialogue, ”said Oleg Ignatov, senior analyst at Crisis Group on Russia based in Moscow.
“There is no doubt that Putin will continue to test Biden if the dialogue stalls or evolves in a direction disadvantageous for Moscow. It is not yet the beginning of the normalization of relations. It is a pause in their further deterioration.” , he added. adds.
As counterintuitive as it may be for Putin to push the US president in the eye later, every action the Russian president does is made in view of how it will play out for him at the national level.
Keir Giles, Senior Consulting Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House, points out that standing up to the United States has been a big part of Putin’s success in his country.
“His robust response to both the softball questions of the tame Russian media and the challenges of foreign journalists will earn points among Russians who share his belief that it is the West that is the dangerous, unpredictable and aggressive partner in the relationship. “, did he declare. said.
Of course, Wednesday’s events also play into a longer narrative that has settled in over the past decade: the West, no matter how harsh it talks about Russia, has been largely incapable of overpowering Putin and its allies. In the eyes of opponents of Putin, the repercussions are insufficient for a man who poisons political opponents, meddles in the elections of other countries, supports the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the bombardment of his own country and annexes foreign territory.
The summit also gave Putin the opportunity to put an end to the fallout from the deterioration of Moscow-Washington relations, as the United States may now be reluctant to impose further economic sanctions on Russia or reprimand Putin for having arrested dissidents at home. All of this could come in handy when Russia holds parliamentary elections later this year.
In short, Putin went to Geneva and got exactly what he wanted. And he left Switzerland with a huge diplomatic victory, just by showing up.
You Can Read Also