President Joe Biden left Geneva, Switzerland, frustrated and empty-handed after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
After the meeting, Biden was hesitant to declare any victories, noting he would know whether or not his meeting was a success in the next three to six months.
“We’re going to be able to look back, look ahead, in three to six months and say, ‘Did the things we agree to sit down and work out, did it work?'” Biden said. “Are we closer to major strategic stability talks and progress?”
The president discussed his meeting at a press conference with reporters in Geneva after the summit.
Biden voiced optimism that there was a “genuine prospect” to improve the relationship between the two countries. He noted that Putin quoted his mom and described the meeting as “somewhat colloquial.”
But the president grew frustrated with reporters after they questioned his optimistic view of the summit.
“I am not sitting here saying because the president and I agreed we would do these things that all of a sudden it’s going to work. I’m not saying that,” Biden said.
He signaled to reporters he stood up to Vladimir Putin on issues of human rights but admitted he was not overly aggressive in his style.
“There were no threats, just simple assertions,” Biden said, explaining his tone to reporters.
Biden did not earn any concessions from Putin, especially on the issue of two Americans, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, who Biden described as “wrongfully detained” by the Russians.
“This is not a kumbaya moment as we used to say in the 60s in the United States,” he admitted.
Biden also did not get any positive response from Putin on issues of cybercriminals in Russia hacking critical infrastructure in the United States.
The president did say that Putin agreed to assist in keeping the peace in countries like Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya, as part of a longtime understanding with American leaders.
Biden’s press conference lasted only about 34 minutes, and he soon lost his temper when he was questioned about his optimistic tone.
“What the hell? What do you do all the time?” Biden snapped at CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, who asked Biden why he was confident that Putin’s behavior would change.
When asked if anything would change as a result of the meeting with Putin, Biden replied, “If you don’t understand that you’re in the wrong business.”
As he prepared to board Air Force One for the flight home, Biden appeared concerned about the optics he was leaving in Geneva and tried to reset them with additional remarks to the press.
He apologized to reporters for his “wise guy” response to Collins but again grew frustrated with the tone of their questions.
“To be good reporters you’ve got to have a negative view of life, it seems to me, the way you all — you never ask a positive question,” he said after he was questioned about his meeting by a New York Times reporter.
When asked if he had any success in his meeting, Biden replied, “We’ll find out.”
Biden said there was “value” in putting on an “optimistic face” in foreign diplomatic efforts.
“Look, guys, I might drive you all crazy, because I know you want me to always put a negative thrust on things, particularly in public and negotiate in public,” he said, adding that “it makes no sense for me to negotiate with you.”