Images of Biden’s meeting with Putin show a cool but cordial dynamic as the US president seeks a reset after Trump

Biden Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
  • Images showed the cool atmosphere as Biden and Putin met in Geneva on Wednesday.
  • Biden’s stance toward Russia marks a major shift from Trump.
  • Trump’s 2018 summit with Putin in Helsinki was one of the most infamous moments of his presidency.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva on Wednesday at a time when US-Russia relations are at a historic low. It was Biden’s first face-to-face meeting as commander in chief with the Russian president.

Biden’s approach to relations with Putin has marked a significant shift from the US’s stance toward Russia under President Donald Trump.

The atmosphere appeared cool, if cordial, as Biden and Putin greeted each other – in keeping with the new US president’s view that Russia is a leading adversary. Photos showed the leaders smiling as they shook hands. Another image showed Biden making a point with his fists raised as Putin looked on during a meeting.

-Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) June 16, 2021

Trump’s behavior toward Putin repeatedly sparked criticism in Washington and fueled suspicions about the US president’s loyalties. Trump expressed admiration for Putin and avoided criticizing him, even as the Russian leader became increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive on the global stage.

In one of the most infamous moments of his presidency, Trump during a summit in Helsinki in July 2018 appeared to side with Putin over the US intelligence community on the subject of Russian election interference.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin directed interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections to help boost Trump’s chances of winning. An investigation by the special counsel Robert Mueller found that Trump’s campaign welcomed Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, but Mueller’s team said it didn’t uncover sufficient evidence to merit conspiracy charges.

Biden during his campaign pledged to confront Putin and excoriated Trump over his handling of US-Russia relations, accusing him of being far too soft on his Russian counterpart.

Biden has said he doesn’t seek conflict with Russia but wants to establish more stable, predictable relations, which is why he proposed holding a summit with Putin in a third country. Experts have expressed skepticism about what Biden could achieve in meeting with Putin, who has been an intractable leader over his 20 years in power.

The Biden administration has countered this criticism by saying that meeting with adversaries face-to-face is vital to working through differences.

Beyond Russia’s interference in US elections, the contentious dynamic between Washington and Moscow has been driven by the annexation of Crimea; the war in Ukraine involving Russia-backed rebels; cybersecurity concerns; the treatment of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny; the Syria conflict; and more.

Heading into Wednesday’s highly anticipated summit, Biden was expected to focus on US concerns about cyberattacks while pushing for new talks and commitments on nuclear arms control.

Unlike at the Helsinki summit, there was no joint press conference in Geneva.

“In Helsinki in 2018 at his presser with Trump, Putin did not tell the truth and played whataboutism. So why give him a platform next to Biden to possibly do the same here in Geneva?” Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, tweeted. “Parallel pressers, not a joint one, is the right move.”

Here are photos of Biden and Putin in Geneva, and photos of Putin and Trump in various meetings over the past four years.

Biden Putin
Putin greets Biden in Geneva on Wednesday. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
Trump putin handshake
Then-US President Donald Trump and Putin shake hands at a joint press conference in Helsinki on July 16, 2018. Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Biden Putin
Biden and Putin in Geneva. Mikhail Metzel/Getty Images
Trump Putin
Trump and Putin at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Biden Putin
Putin and Biden in Geneva. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
Trump, Putin
Trump and Putin in Helsinki in 2018. Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Biden Putin
The Biden-Putin summit in Geneva. Mikhail Metzel/Getty Images
Trump Putin
Trump and Putin attend a dinner in Helsinki on July 16, 2018. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images