No surprises in Geneva. The two old acquaintances got what they wanted. They agreed on how much they disagree and now the results are to be expected.
Joe Biden needed to lower the temperature with Vladimir Putin to better focus on China and the intractable Republican opposition to his domestic agenda. Putin needed to be relevant at home to run for a fifth term.
Putin left saying the meeting was effective and specific. Biden said nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting, but he made it clear that he doesn’t believe the former KGB agent who has been screwing American interlocutors for 21 years. It’s pure business, self-interest, he said.
Putin was the first to speak, at a press conference he extended with evident pleasure, the professional “troll” that he is: he brushed aside all questions about Alexei Navalni without, as usual, uttering the name of the imprisoned dissident he tried to assassinate, making references to US domestic problems.
Regurgitating sarcasm, he expressed “sympathy” for the wave of racial protests and pointed out that arrested American protesters will spend up to “20 years in prison.”
In concrete, the modest announcement about the forthcoming return of the respective ambassadors to Moscow and Washington. Putin made it clear in the interview that he didn’t give in at all. Especially about the crackdown on dissidents and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, which he invaded in 2014, annexing Crimea.
Biden warned that if cyber attacks continue, especially on crucial infrastructure sectors such as oil supplies, the American response will be cyber.
And he recalled that the US has the technology to inflict pain. Biden countered Putin’s cynicism with his well-known unclean air and, with evident condescension, suggested: Putin has a huge frontier with a China that seeks hegemony — will it want to buy into the mess of a new Cold War with the United States? The rhetorical question is another message, but nobody got rich betting on Vladimir’s common sense.
The fact is, this is the first time in the history of the Moscow-Washington summits that one of the leaders has had to stay in office indefinitely to stay alive. Post-Soviet Russia is a petrostate controlled by oligarchs, the military and organized crime. It is estimated that 110 individuals own 35% of the country’s wealth.
Forget the dangerous armed neighbors of the condominium in Barra, in Rio, or the chocolate shop used as a laundry, or even the mixarias exemplified by characters like Val do Açaí.
The Crime Office, which should really boast of this title, is not in the west side of Rio, despite the success of having planted a branch in Brasília. It started in St. Petersburg, in the 1990s, and is led by what would be today one of the richest men in the world.
Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin only has in common with the aspiring caboclo dictator his origins in the lower clergy. In this case, the lower clergy of the KGB, in which he was a mediocre spy. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Putin, back in St. Petersburg, set up the operation in his Vivendas da Barra, a condominium called Ozero, where he began to accumulate an extraordinary fortune with former colleagues and local henchmen.
At the press conference in Geneva, an American reporter asked Putin: the list of dead enemies is long, what do you fear? The honest answer should be: it’s the living that scare me. It is not political dissidents who salivate to see Putin unprotected. It’s the thieves he stole.
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