Putin hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt

The Russian president needs to go a long ways in earning our trust, including admitting to Russia-backed cyberattacks and assaults on the U.S. political system.

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Editorials

June 17, 2021 - 10:18 AM

Russia President Vladimir Putin, left, and US President Joe Biden meet for talks in Geneva, Switzerland on June 16, 2021. (Mikhail Metzel/TASS/Zuma Press/TNS)

President Biden’s first summit meeting with Vladimir Putin was preceded by reports of persistent cyberattacks by Russian state and private actors against sensitive U.S. targets and a major Russian military mobilization along the borders of Ukraine, among other provocations. Mr. Biden consequently vowed to reestablish “red lines” with the Kremlin ruler, who himself told an interviewer that relations were at their lowest point in years. So it was somewhat surprising that both leaders emerged from their talks in Geneva on Wednesday describing a positive exchange and the potential for a more stable and cooperative relationship.

“The talks were quite constructive,” said Mr. Putin, who went on to praise Mr. Biden as “very balanced” and “very experienced.” “The tone of the entire meeting was very good, positive,” agreed the U.S. president. “I think there is a genuine prospect for us to significantly improve relations between our countries.”

It would certainly be welcome if Mr. Biden’s discussion with the Russian ruler, and follow-up talks they agreed would take place, led to an end to Russia-based cyberattacks, the relaxation of the Kremlin’s squeeze on the Russian operations of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the release of U.S. citizens unjustly imprisoned in Moscow. Mr. Putin hinted “compromise” was possible on all these matters. Mr. Biden further reported that Mr. Putin had offered “help” on Iran and Afghanistan, and that accommodations were possible on the wars in Syria and Libya, where the two countries back opposing sides.

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