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June 16, 2021, 9:10 p.m. EDT

Key takeaways from Biden’s meeting in Geneva with Russia’s Putin

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip put his diplomatic and negotiating philosophy on display, as he rallied traditional U.S. democratic allies to confront new and old challenges and offered an often rosy take on the possibilities of cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin after a one-on-one meeting.

Following are some takeaways.

A reset by any other name: Biden and Putin did not use the word “reset” to describe the state of relations between the two nations after their meeting in Switzerland. But that’s what the meeting amounted to, with both men staking out clear areas of disagreement, even as they pointed to smaller-scale areas where they could cooperate.

They conveyed both a mutual respect and a mutual skepticism. It was an abrupt return to more conventional U.S.-Russia framing after the presidency of Donald Trump, who often seemed to elevate Putin and create at least the aspiration that the countries could be more like partners.

This time, each leader left with the understanding that some of the old rules still apply. Russia returns to its place as a “worthy adversary,” as Biden put it, rather than some kind of colleague. And the longer-standing tensions, over cyberwarfare and human rights, remain.

See: What Biden and Putin were hoping to get out of their face-to-face meeting in Switzerland

Body language: After their three-hour meeting, Biden’s sunny disposition stood in sharp contrast to the more sober, taciturn tone of Putin, who at times became defensive when asked questions by reporters about human rights violations in Russia and the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Even so, Biden acknowledged his optimism was more wishful thinking than reality.

“I’m going to drive you all crazy because I know you want me to always put a negative thrust on things, particularly in public,” he said shortly before boarding Air Force One, adding, that way, “you guarantee nothing happens.”

It highlighted the president’s negotiating style, whether it be with Putin or with Senate Republicans at home on infrastructure — in which he publicly expresses his belief that a deal can be struck despite often overwhelming odds.

“I know we make foreign policy out to be this great, great skill that somehow is sort of like a secret code,” Biden said. “All foreign policy is a logical extension of personal relationships. It’s the way human nature functions.”

He later added, “There’s a value to being realistic and to put on an optimistic front, an optimistic face.”

Meeting face to face: Biden’s eight-day, three-country foreign trip demonstrated his emphasis on personal relationships above all.

“There’s no substitute, as those of you who have covered me for a while know, for face-to-face dialogue between leaders — none,” Biden said, declaring his meeting with Putin a success simply for the fact that they spoke in person.

Throughout his trip, most of Biden’s meetings were conducted in private, without cameras, or with only a few moments open to media.

It highlighted Biden’s faith in intangible personal ties that can drive policy outcomes, both foreign and domestic.

And it marked a clear departure in style from Trump, whose freewheeling public meetings with global leaders became something of legend on the international stage. Relationships tended to flow one way — with obsequious public displays by heads of state and government trying to get on Trump’s good side.

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