President Joe Biden frequently talks about what he sees as central in executing effective foreign policy: building personal relationships.
But unlike his four most recent White House predecessors, who made an effort to build a measure of rapport with Vladimir Putin, Biden has made clear that the virtue of fusing a personal connection might have its limits when it comes to the Russian leader.
The president, who is set to meet with Putin face-to-face on Wednesday in Geneva, has repeated an anecdote about his last meeting with Putin, 10 years ago when he was vice president and Putin was serving as prime minister. Putin had taken a break from the presidency because the Russian constitution at the time prohibited a third consecutive term, but he was still seen as Russia’s most powerful leader.
Biden recalled to biographer Evan Osnos that during that meeting in 2011, Putin showed him his ornate office in Moscow. Biden recalling poking Putin — a former KGB officer — that “it’s amazing what capitalism will do.”