Pax mundi: Putin embraces Biden, all’s right with the world
The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven –
All’s right with the world! – from Pippa Passes, Robert Browning
Four days after the three-hour meeting between U.S. and Russian presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, the Russian government press agency TASS reported that chief of the Russian general staff General Valery Gerasimov was confident of better days ahead regarding relations between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.
With what comes across as heartfelt trust, undisguised enthusiasm and emotional ebullience (a skeptic might call it naiveté), the general said of the Geneva meeting and what he believes it portends: “We felt the constructive stance. It seems to me that both our countries will embark on this course.”
After the meeting, in words that could make Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan jealous, Putin positively gushed over his first meeting with one of the world’s premier arch-Russophobes, one who is single-handedly keeping alive the legacies of Zbigniew Brzezinski and John McCain, who might be said to be channeling their utter detestation of Russia and all things Russian.
Reuters reported the Russian president saying the following the day after the meeting in a story not inappropriately-titled Putin lavishes post-summit praise on Biden, says media have U.S. leader wrong:
“I want to say that the image of President Biden that our press and even the American press paints has nothing in common with reality.
“He was on a long trip, had flown across the Ocean, and had to contend with jet lag and the time difference. When I fly it takes its toll. But he looked cheerful, we spoke face-to-face for two or maybe more hours. He’s completely across his brief.
“Biden is a professional, and you have to be very careful in working with him to make sure you don’t miss anything. He doesn’t miss anything, I can assure you.”
That Biden, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the first major American official to visit Georgia after it provoked a five-day war with Russia in 2008 by invading South Ossetia, and while there pledged $1 billion to rebuild the nation, was blissfully forgotten. Forgive him his trespasses.
That he was instrumental in engineering the 2014 coup in Ukraine, triggering an ongoing war on Russia’s western border, then becoming the first U.S. official to visit the post-coup nation and lay down the law to its parliament could only add to Putin’s admiration of his professionalism, his effervescent cheerfulness, his engaging sociability (“C’mon, Killer!”) and his being completely across his brief. On top of his game. A real pro. A figure worthy of emulation.
That Biden was vice president while the government of Russia’s ally Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, while the Ukrainian army shelled the Donbass and beyond and on several occasions wounded and killed Russian civilians on their own territory, while the U.S. deployed troops to Syria to overthrow the government of Russian ally Bashir al-Assad, while Libya was bombed by the U.S. and NATO for seven and a half months, while NATO battlegroups and U.S. troops and armored vehicles were deployed to Russia’s borders in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and while president declaring a national emergency this April because of a threat “posed by specified harmful foreign activities of the Government of the Russian Federation,” while…but why go on? If Putin doesn’t hold such peccadilloes against him, why should anyone else? For those familiar with the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
A blossoming friendship of the sort Putin celebrates is not to be dismissed, not to be taken for granted, not to be endangered, but to be cherished. Even as the American commander-in-chief’s warships, warplanes (including B-52s) and troops are off the shore of Russia’s Kaliningrad district in the anti-Russian Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) war games. Friends overlook such minor irritants. That’s what friends are for.
A paraphrase of St. Matthew this time: if your friend takes your Armenia, let him have your Belarus as well.
There may indeed be a diminution of tensions between the U.S. and Russia when one leader calls the other a killer and the latter praises him as he has so fawningly done. Whether psychotherapists would consider theirs a healthy friendship is another matter.