July 30, 2021

Russia, a familiar issue for the President of the United States

In half a century of public life, Joe Biden has devoted a great deal of time to international issues. In this area, Moscow has always been a central subject of concern for him, with two constants: the desire to dialogue despite obstacles, and the pre-eminence of arms limitation over all other issues.

The Democrat made his first visit to the Soviet Union in 1973, a year after his election to the Senate. He returned there in August 1979, within one of the American delegations that had come to discuss the SALT 2 disarmament agreement. He was only 36 years old, but he received the dividends of having been the first senator to bring his support for Jimmy Carter before his presidential victory in 1976. Meetings with Russian officials allowed Biden to familiarize himself with their way of thinking.

He later recounted, in 2011, how the head of the Soviet government, Alexei Kosygin, had welcomed him to the Kremlin at the time. “Before we begin our discussion, senator, let’s agree that we don’t trust you, and you don’t trust us. And we both have good reasons ”, then recalls the former senator who became vice-president. In Joe Biden’s memories was the presence of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, “Who was sicker than we thought” and had withdrawn quickly.

The 1988 visit

In 1988, as the Cold War drew to a close, Joe Biden made another visit to Moscow. Unusual ceremonial fact, the senator obtains that his son, Hunter, then aged 18, attend his meeting with Andrei Gromyko, president of the Supreme Soviet. At the heart of the discussions: the Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), signed at the end of 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

After the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, other theaters of operation absorbed the senator from Delaware, notably the Balkans, where he defended Bosnia against Serbia supported by Russia. In June 2001, when the new American president George W. Bush met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Poutine for the first time in Slovenia, he said he had watched him. ” in the eyes ” and having seen ” his soul “. In the meantime, Joe Biden has become chairman of the powerful Senate foreign affairs committee. “I don’t trust Putin”, he comments.

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