U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday and one expert argued that the Kremlin has some leverage when it comes to the relationship between the two world leaders.
“Biden needs Putin more than Putin needs Biden,” Elisabeth Braw, resident fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “Biden needs Russia to at least behave in a less aggressive fashion because Biden’s biggest national security challenge is China — it’s no longer Russia.”
Biden mentioned a U.S. preference for stability when he told reporters: "President Putin and I share a unique responsibility to manage the relationship between two powerful and proud countries — a relationship that has to be stable and predictable."
Russia has increasingly isolated itself with various actions in recent years despite a struggling economy. The country has faced international sanctions since its 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula in Ukraine that has Soviet connections, and the ongoing slow-burning war in eastern Ukraine that began after the invasion. The U.S. imposed further sanctions after a Russian campaign to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
At the same time, Putin remains geopolitically opportunistic: Germany and Russia recently agreed to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will send Russian gas to Europe without passing through war-torn eastern Ukraine. Russia also continues to host former NSA contractor and outspoken U.S. government critic Edward Snowden since he flew from Hong Kong to Moscow in June 2013.
"Biden and the West in general, needs Russia to at least not be as aggressive as it has been up to now," Braw said. "Biden can really only plead with Putin."
Putin, for his part, has denied involvement in recent destabilizing activities that included a cyber-espionage campaign targeting software company SolarWinds and ransomware attacks on U.S. businesses by Russia-based criminal groups.
"I think there was no hostility," Putin told reporters on Wednesday. "Quite the contrary ... both of these sides showed a willingness to understand one another and to find ways to bring our positions closer together."
Braw noted that Putin also doesn't want the U.S. to interfere "in what he considers... domestic matters," which include the relationship with close Russian ally and neighbor Belarus and the treatment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Belarus has faced international condemnation since August 2020, when protests erupted after a fraudulent election when long-time ruler Alexander Lukashenko refused to step down. Russia has backed Lukashenko's crackdown efforts, including a fake bomb threat that forced a Ryanair plane to make an emergency landing in the Belarusian capital of Minsk so that the country's KGB security services could detain a prominent anti-Lukashenko blogger. (The U.S. sanctioned Belarusian officials amid the post-election crackdown and condemned the Ryanair incident.)
Navalny was poisoned by Russian intelligence officers in August 2020, almost killing the Russian opposition leader. Russia then imprisoned Navalny in a notorious penal colony when he returned from live-saving treatment in Germany.
"I told him human rights is always going to be on the table," Biden told reporters on Wednesday when asked about Navalny. "How could I be president of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?"
Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.
Michael is an editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her @MichaelBKelley.