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Does our 'supreme' leader have courage to face media as Biden, Putin did in Geneva?

Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

Two leaders of two great nations met at a neutral venue known for its peaceful locales and absolute neutral position world over. President Joe Biden of the United States and President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation came to Geneva for their first face to face meet after the United States saw a change in the government.
President Putin had in his long career as head of state of Russian Federation had met four American Presidents since 1999. They are President Bill Clinton, President George W Bush, President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump and now Joe Biden was the fifth president meeting Putin. Indeed, Putin expectedly was well aware of American political ‘expectations’ from him.
However, things this time in Geneva were different than what happened in Helsinki when Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin came to discuss various issues. Donald Trump is flamboyant and loves ‘media’, Putin seems to know that art much better than his counterparts. Unlike Donald Trump, President Joe Biden is a serious man, who believes that diplomatic skills cannot be displayed through ‘media’ but through serious back-channel negotiations.
The American media which was frustrated with Trump wanted to make the Geneva talks as a ‘victory’ for Joe Biden. It had already started fixing up the narrative, and there was an effort to to project Vladimir Putin as a very ‘small’ man, or Russia an absolute ‘non-entity’ in comparison to the United States.
The story of Putin was notorious for making world leader ‘wait’ for his arrival began being discussed. Also, how the American administration did not want President Biden to ‘wait’ for Putin. Hence, it was suggested, Putin came on time from Moscow, arrived at the hotel to be welcomed by the Swiss President and waited for President Biden to arrive for the talks.
American media sought to ‘analyse’ each aspect of the ‘summit’, making every effort to belittle Putin and Russia. Putin would use this summit to strengthen his ‘ratings’ domestically, said one commentator. Another nodded, he must be feeling ‘ great’ sitting with the world's ‘most powerful’ man and getting international ‘importance’.
Pathetic to say the least. Russia may not be the same as the United States but it definitely is a great nation. It still inspires nations who fought against colonialism and Western hegemony.
After the first handshake between the two presidents and their footage of the face to face meeting, CNN commentators suggested that Putin was ‘nervous’ and looked like a ‘student’. They were in ‘awe’ with President Biden who looked ‘confident’. The one-to-one meeting between the two presidents took around two hours; it continued for around another three hours official delegations of the two sides present.
After the summit, it was clear that American did not want a joint press conference for the fear that Putin might ‘steal’ the show as happened during his joint press conference with Donald Trump at Helsinki. American administration as well as western media were determined not to give Putin an opportunity to ‘shine’ this time. Apparently, the media had come ‘well prepared’ to counter Putin. Hence it was made clear that both the leaders would address the media separately.
It was Putin who addressed the media first. He looked confident and was always dealing with the media. He said that the talks were constructive and spoke highly of President Joe Biden. He is a ‘statesman’, said Putin. Then he spoke that Russian and American Ambassadors would resume their respective duties soon.
As usual, the western media wanted to ‘embarrass’ Putin on his ‘human rights’ record and about the opposition leader in jail on charges of espionage. American media was continuously ranting on the issue and making out as if Putin would be ‘taught’ a lesson if he did not agree.
Putin is a classic Russian leader who knows how to handle Western media. All those ‘liberals’ got everything in return when Putin responded powerfully and spoke about ‘Black Lives Matters’ which does not exist in Russia. He also said that he does not want to tell America what happened in the aftermath of the Presidential elections when Trump’s supporters attacked Capitol Hill.
Putin also rejected the allegation by the American media about maltreatment to the Russian ‘dissenter ’Alexei Navalny who is languishing in jail. Putin said emphatically that America termed Russia as an adversary and hence how can a person being supported by an adversary be a friend of Russia?
A man who hasn't spoken to any journalist in last 7 years and enjoys doing mock interviews with devotees can't handle media at a neutral place
The Western journalists actually could not trap Putin through their ‘difficult’ questions. Every time he visits the West, Putin wins the show. After Putin’s lengthy conference, it was the turn of President Joe Biden to speak to the media. As a seasoned politician, he spoke that the talks were constructive and hoped that he would continue to push for American interest.
However, the media was not ‘satisfied’ with Biden’s response. They wanted to know whether Biden ‘scolded’ Putin or not. Such a stupid attitude can only be expected when the media is a propaganda machinery of the ruling dispensation. As President Biden was about to leave, the last question asked by a reporter exasperated him. “ Are you confident that Putin’s behaviour will change?'' said the journalist.
This question actually hurt Biden and he was a bit aggressive when he said, “ What will change their behaviour is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything; I’m just stating a fact.”
The president knew the art of diplomacy, and being a seasoned political leader understood that not everything can be discussed at a press conference. Joe Biden, knew, he was not speaking to some president in some nondescript country. He was speaking to Russia, still the world's biggest country and a big power of yesteryears which has not been diminished as many had assumed.
It is a country which still gives hope to many other countries. Even in the Covid times, it is the Russian vaccine Sputnik which was initially looked down upon by the Western media but soon they realised that its efficacy was more than any of their own products.
The problem in the Western media world is that the narrative starts about their opponents. Russia is an independent nation and has a right to defend itself. Putin will not speak American language like the Americans would not speak the Russian language. Why does American media want Putin to speak for their interests?
It is the same media which made Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat look like terrorists. They would always question the ‘human rights’ record of these leaders and their countries. Fortunately, all of them were extremely well read and understood the games of the imperial powers.
Whether Nelson Mandela or Fidel Castro, they remained powerful, thoughtful and western media understood that. All those who spoke for their own countries and showed their autonomy became villains. Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, Robert Mugabe – all became villains in the western world. I am not saying they did no wrong. Of course, the crisis of the global south is the absence of autonomous institutions, which made the anti-colonial war heroes as absolute monarchs, with no challenge to their leadership.
The leadership of a nation cannot be judged by the standards that an outsider imposes on us. The world is turning into a village and information technology has brought us closer. Yet, media is a medium to communicate a message. The duty of the media is to report and not to push the agenda of their political leaders. International media must to provide both sides of the stories.
There is a tendency to ignore that American administration has supported fundamentalists, military dictators and monarchs. Who can ignore the powerful General Ziaul Haq of Pakistan who destroyed the constitution and created a sharia law in his country, found full support by the Americans to counter the Russian influence in Afghanistan? It is a well known fact that, prior to the Taliban, Afghanistan had a much progressive regime under Najibullah.
Similarly, in the Middle East, Americans supported all the monarchs while trying to delegitimize Iran, which had a much better track record of political system in comparison to Saudi Arabia, America’s biggest ally. American human rights concerns have rarely questioned Israel’s brutalities and absolute disrespect for international laws in Gaza Strip and the rest of Palestine, where innocent citizens are criminalised at will without ever respecting the autonomy and sovereignty of Palestine authority.
Be that as it may, Joe Biden was gracious, and when he realised that he overreacted to the journalist’s question, he apologised to her before taking off from Geneva. It takes a lot of courage and conviction to do so. Joe Biden deserves one’s respect and appreciation. One can never expect such things happening in our part of the world. Frankly, we have troll armies now on social media to trash genuine journalists. These are paid trolls who humiliate all those who differ from the 'official' lines.
One wonders if our supreme leader has the capacity to handle such aggressive hostile media independently, as Putin handled in Geneva. One may not like Putin, but the fact is he stole the show in Geneva despite all attempts by the media to make him a villain. For that you need a lot of courage and conviction.
A man who has not spoken to any journalist in the last seven years and who enjoys doing ‘mock’ interviews with ‘devotees’ can't handle media at a neutral place. A leader’s strength is measured in these neutral places as how he or she handles the media and explains facts about his or her country.
Indian leaders can learn a lot from this summit that a superfluous leader created by false narrative can't really respond to tough questions internationally. Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin showed they were leaders in their own right, and know how to handle the media as per their country’s interest.
The lesson for the media is to focus on reporting and not try to build a one-sided narrative to increase their TRPs. Diplomacy and negotiations are a difficult art and hence important to give the back channel diplomats a space for breathing so that talks succeed and ensure its continuation in the greater interest of world peace and stability.
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*Human rights defender, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat, twitter: @freetohumanity

Comments

S.Dey. said…
I really like the statesmanship of Honourable Putin who faces the world in a calm and quite gesture with hardly any abusive language even to his opponents.
I also respect President Bidan for his great experiences in how to deal with a difficult situation and exponential pressure of vested interests.
All the leaders of the world should come together to create a new world order with UNO personals acting as Border Security of necessary socio-economic sustainable zones in line of Progressive Utilisation Theory of Sociological Science based on NEO-HUMANISM.
Minor nations shall then not feel threatened by major nations and food,cloth,shelter,medical support and education becomes available to all in the medium of their mother tongue becomes available in a post-destruction era of world economy under the guidance of Great Personalities' collective leadership.

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