Joe Biden's highly anticipated first meeting as US President with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was something of a damp squib, with no sign of the hugely controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in the Baltic Sea even making the agenda.
If the US leader was hoping to use the 16 June rendezvous in Geneva as a way of tempering Russia's perceived belligerence on the international stage, hosting cyberattacks and weaponising its own oil and gas resources, no progress was evident.
According to the Kremlin, there was no discussion of the Opec+ agreement to regulate global energy demand, oil supplies from Venezuela or Iran, or the contentious Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 gas export pipeline project to Germany — despite the last already leading to US sanctions against Russia.
Instead, Biden told Putin that Russia will only increase its importance and respect on the global stage if the Russian leader ceases cracking down on political freedoms and dissent at home while halting alleged political meddling abroad.
Saying there is “no substitute for face-to-face meetings”, Biden pressed the US' firm stance on human rights abuses, cybersecurity, arms control measures, regional conflicts and its own efforts to maintain global stability.
“Foreign policy is the extension of personal relationship,” Biden said when told by reporters that Putin had engaged in trademark anti-US rhetoric and accusations at a press conference after the meeting.
According to prominent Russian opposition leader Lyubov Sobol, the Geneva meeting will merely strengthen the Kremlin's claims about Putin's growing strength in the international arena, further emboldening authorities in their crackdown on dissenters.
The Kremlin recently cheered the Biden administration’s decision to relieve pressure on Nord Stream 2, a project that will give Russia a strategic option for re-shaping traditional gas supply routes to Europe.
Putin, meanwhile, used the meeting as an opportunity to double down on Alexei Navalny, the jailed critic who was poisoned last year with the Novichok nerve agent, almost certainly by Russian security agents.
At the press conference held after the meeting, Putin accused his critics of promoting mass disorder, publishing instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails and exposing the personal details of police officers participating in the dispersal of peaceful protests held earlier this year. He said US funding was behind all such activity.
Later in the week, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that Russia would free Navalny and extradite him to the US, but only if Washington acknowledged that the opposition leader is in fact a US citizen working under cover for the country’s intelligence agencies.
Lies and the twisting of facts have become the foundation of Russian domestic and foreign policy under Putin's lengthy reign since his somewhat surprising appointment as prime minister in 1999 by an ailing then-president Boris Yeltsin, who supported his bid for the presidency.
With the Geneva meeting, Biden wanted to be seen as offering his Russian counterpart a way out of a years-long destructive relationship between the Kremlin and Western powers.
But with Putin apparently bidding to hold onto power in Russia until at least 2036, global leaders should be braced for renewed attempts by Russia to extend its stranglehold on continental energy supplies and to disrupt governments and countries that oppose its plans.