Joe Biden Secretly Gifted Putin Aviator Sunglasses Before Ukrainian War

U.S. President Joe Biden departs on the South Lawn of the White House on October 12, 2022
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images, DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP via Getty Images

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:

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.

A pair of Randolph Aviator Sunglasses, in the Concord style, are shown at Randolph Engineering in Randolph, Massachusetts on June 17, 2021. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

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 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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