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Putin Has a Tradition of Playing Mind Games With American Presidents

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  • President Joe Biden is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week. 
  • Some Democrats have called on Biden to be more assertive than Trump with Russia, Axios reported. 
  • However, Putin has perfected tactics to intimidate US leaders, Axios’ Glen Johnson said. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Progressive Democrats are calling on President Joe Biden to take a more assertive approach toward Russia than his predecessor, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has a tradition of playing mind games with American presidents.

Biden is set to meet with Putin in Geneva on Wednesday and fifteen members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are sending him a letter to tell him they support him talking to Putin on a range of issues, Axios reported. 

“In these talks, we hope that you will prioritize ways that the United States and Russia can work together to reduce tensions in areas of dispute and cooperate on areas of global importance,” wrote Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the CPC chairperson, and 14 others.

The letter comes at a time when relations between Russia and the US have fallen, CNN reported. The two countries combined possess 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal.

However, Putin has some traditional tactics to intimidate American presidents, Axios’ Glen Johnson also reported. 

Johnson, who served as a senior advisor to former Secretary of State John Kerry, said Putin’s spent decades fine-tuning “an array of tactics aimed at putting US leaders on the defensive and in response mode.”

Putin, for example, often asserts authority by showing up late to meetings and speaking bluntly about Russia’s grievances, Johnson said. 

Johnson recalled the last trip he went on with Kerry, where Putin called Kerry to meet him at the Kremlin at 10 p.m. after keeping him waiting for hours. 

Jon Finer, Biden’s deputy national security adviser, who also previously served as Kerry’s chief of staff, told NPR that Kerry was coached on how not to take the bait. Johnson said the advice could also be applied to Biden. 

“Absorb and then try to pivot and focus on your own agenda so you can actually try to get something out of these meetings,” Finer said. 

Johnson said Biden’s trip is set up in a way that could help the US president take control, for example with Putin arriving before Biden and the two will also host separate press conferences. However, Johnson said if Biden wants to be assertive he has to be very careful. 

“Biden could be left playing catch-up unless he can beat Putin at his own game,” Johnson said. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden will confront Putin over cyberattacks, including last year’s SolarWinds cyberattack, NBC News reported. 

“He is going to make clear that no responsible state can be in the business of harboring criminal enterprises engaged in cyberattacks, including

ransomware
. That’s very much going to be part of the conversation,” Blinken said.

“There’s a lot going on where we can work together with Russia,” Biden said. “Russia has engaged in activities that we believe are contrary to international norms, but they’ve also bitten off real problems that they’re going to have trouble chewing on.”

Biden also said there is room for cooperation on topics like ransomware, but also on efforts to bring global aid to areas like Libya and Syria, where Russia has influence. 

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