Analysis: Body language key in Biden, Putin virtual summit

Politics

(NewsNation Now) — As the world looks to determine who has the upper hand following the highly anticipated call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, focus is on the men’s body language.

The two world leaders spoke for over two hours during a video call Tuesday that seemed to have yielded little progress apart from them agreeing to name envoys to keep the discussion going.

But what is said during these meetings of foreign leaders is often far less important than the body language and demeanor of the two leaders as they interact.

The interactions are normally in-person and captured by an independent press pool of photographers and on video.

But when the meeting is virtual — as was the case with Putin and Biden — the images released to the public can attempt to tell very different stories.

“The only thing that we have out of this meeting to really interpret other than the spin is these pictures,” NationNation’s Leland Vittert said during an appearance on “Morning in America”.

The pictures put out by the White House versus the images and video put out by the Kremlin of the same interaction telegraph a lot about their view of the meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is shown during his talks with U.S. President Joe Biden via videoconference in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The video call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss tensions over Ukraine. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“The Kremlin wants you to see things as cheery, President Biden waving as Mr. Putin sits stone-faced, almost smirking,” Vittert, who has covered countless summits and meetings of foreign leaders with the president, said.

“So the Kremlin very much wants us to see Vladimir Putin being in control, sort of stern, a Sovietesque leader in the yoke of Nikita Khrushchev.” Vittert said. “And Joe Biden with the smile.”

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, described the presidents’ video conference as “candid and businesslike,” adding that they also exchanged occasional jokes.

In this image provided by The White House, President Joe Biden speaks as he meets virtually via a secure video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Situation Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. At far left is White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, national security council senior director for Russian and Central Asia, Eric Green. (Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)

By contrast, of the three pictures released by the White House from the Situation Room, Joe Biden is seen with a serious look, his hands gesturing in negotiation as he interacts with Putin.

Biden delivered a simple but serious message during his call with Putin: invade Ukraine again and face painful sanctions that will do resounding harm to your economy. 

Biden said he was “very straightforward” with Putin during their call, warning the Russian leader that he will pay a heavy price if he invades Ukraine.

“There were no minced words,” Biden said. “It was polite, but I made it very clear. If in fact he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences. Economic consequences like you’ve never seen. I am absolutely confident he got the message.”

“The Russians love to play the victim. They are professional victims,” Vittert said.

“What could have been accomplished is that Vladimir Putin would have seen a resolve from President Biden that he did not see from the past three American Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump,” Vittert said on what the call may have accomplished. “So if he saw that resolve from President Biden, well, then something was very much accomplished.”

 It was unclear when further talks between the two would happen.

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