The secret agenda for any meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, if it happens, is the unstated truth behind that first photo.
Biden’s eyes are rapt in a mischievous smile as he prods Putin’s at a recent press conference. What he’s seeking is, the big red ring symbolizing nuclear war.
Over the next hour, a member of the Russian delegation is instructed not to straddle Biden as he questions Putin on Russia’s interference in U.S. elections, and the Minsk peace plan to end the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. At a tense public press conference the next day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov is instructed to ask Biden how many confirmed American casualties he and President Barack Obama had inflicted on Russian soldiers in Syria in the country’s civil war.
“President Putin is focused very much on the sum total of Russia’s interests, which are very much aligned with the interests of the United States. And this is, this will be clearly stated to him,” U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton tells CNN. “And, I think, I’m trying to put on the record: We’re not trying to undermine the deal with Ukraine. We’re not trying to undermine the attempt to normalize relations between Russia and the United States. We just want to make sure that there’s a re-emphasis on both sides that the interests of the United States and the interests of Russia are closely aligned.”
Biden and Putin are both seasoned political veterans. For Biden, this is a rare opportunity to speak truth to power. And for Putin, this is his chance to wish for everything but.
At the time, most Americans were already hardening their reaction to Putin. He’d been president for 11 years. The world seemed more Russian, not less so. Neither Russia nor the West were allowed to continue to irritate the other. War was likely.