President Joe Biden secretly gifted Russian President Vladimir Putin aviator sunglasses at their first presidential summit in Geneva in 2021 before the Ukrainian war began, according to an annual report from the State Department.
Biden gave the Russian president the style of sunglasses in which the American president is regularly pictured, such as when he fell off his bike last summer:
NOW – Biden falls off bike on Delaware ride with Jill.pic.twitter.com/iULl1ieDGS
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) June 18, 2022
He also gave Putin a bison sculpture. It is unknown what relation Biden has or feels to the large, powerful animal.
In return, Putin gave Joe Biden a pen and “Kholuy Lacquer Miniature Workshop Desk Writing Set” valued at $12,000.
Neither the White House nor the Kremlin disclosed Putin’s gift to Biden in 2021. It is unclear why the disclosure was not made public at the time.
Gift giving between world leaders is common. According to Bloomberg, the gifts often showcase the nation’s international statecraft:
During Donald Trump’s administration, foreign leaders wooed the president, with gifts including a Louis Vuitton golf bag from French President Emmanuel Macron and a gold-framed portrait of Trump himself from then-Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Among the gifts disclosed in Biden’s first report are a Dupont fountain pen from Macron, a solar wristwatch from former Swiss President Guy Parmelin, and a pen drawing of Biden’s childhood home from then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was perhaps Biden’s most prolific gifter: He gave Biden two dog bowls, two wool blankets, a ceramic cup and mug set, a fountain pen with a bottle of Oxford blue ink and a photograph of a Frederick Douglass mural in Edinburgh.
The year was 2018; the gifts were Trumpy.
Macron gave Trump a Louis Vuitton golf bag. Vietnam's PM gave Trump a portrait of Trump. And the Crown Prince of Bahrain gave Pence a $5,730 clock that the secret service then destroyed.
— Josh Wingrove (@josh_wingrove) February 24, 2020
The Biden’s 2021 gift exchange with Putin came before the Ukrainian war began in the winter of 2021. Since then, Biden has increased inflammatory rhetoric and imposed approximately 1,500 new and 750 amended sanctions and export controls against Russia, the State Department estimates.
Critics claim the aggressive rhetoric and sanctions have caused the Ukrainian conflict to escalate and prevent Putin from an off-ramp to end the struggle without impacting his domestic political standing.
Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.
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