In their willingness to face a free press in an unscripted, potentially hostile environment, score one surprising victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin over President Biden in their dueling press conferences following their one-day Geneva summit Wednesday.
Not only did the Russian leader spend far more time taking questions from reporters than did Mr. Biden, but Mr. Putin accepted multiple questions from Western journalists, including correspondents from CNN, ABC News and The Wall Street Journal. Many of the questions — on human rights, the status of Mr. Putin‘s soul and why the Russian leader was “afraid” of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny — were extremely pointed.
Mr. Biden, by contrast, took questions exclusively from members of the American press corps in his subsequent briefing — and even apologized to a CNN reporter for being a “wise guy” after scolding her for a question she asked.
Mr. Putin was even asked Wednesday by a Russian reporter about the disparity in his willingness to talk to foreign press outlets while Mr. Biden has not so far engaged with Russian publications. The Russian president said he has grown used to “omissions and distortions” when he does interview with foreign reporters. “We’ve had to live with this for decades,” he told TV broadcaster Pavel Remnyov.
“As to the interviews,” Mr. Putin added, “what kind of interviews these are and who gives them — it is up to each leader or country in question to decide this, if there is the wish to explain something to the people.”
Mr. Putin, who has become famous for his annual free-for-all press conferences that can stretch out four hours or more, also dispensed with an opening statement in his Geneva press briefing, inviting reporters to just start in with their questions.
Mr. Biden began his shorter briefing with a nearly 11-minute, 1,570-word prologue summarizing his views on the summit, before referring to a list provided by his staff and recognizing a correspondent from the Associated Press.