Joe Biden has had a frosty relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, but the U.S. president came bearing gifts when the two met face-to-face for the first time since Biden took office.
Biden gifted Putin with a crystal sculpture of an American bison—considered one of the United States’ most majestic mammals and a symbol of strength, unity and resilience, a White House official told reporters.
The sculpture, made by Steuben, was presented on a cherry wood base in homage to President George Washington, with a custom engraved plaque commemorating the Biden-Putin meeting.
Biden also gave Putin a pair of custom aviators from Randolph USA, which has produced the HGU-4/P Aviator designed for fighter pilots in the U.S Military since the 1970s.
Biden is known to frequently wear the same style of sunglasses, including during his trip to Geneva for Wednesday’s meeting with Putin.
It’s unclear what, if anything, Putin gifted to Biden in return. It’s customary for world leaders to exchange gifts when they hold diplomatic meetings.
Meanwhile, the United States ambassador to Russia and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. will be returning to their formal positions, after being pulled home earlier this year amid escalating tensions between the two countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters after meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
“The two ambassadors, we agreed, should return to their posts and take up their functions,” Putin said, “It’s a technical question as to when exactly that will happen—tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or whatever.”
Biden is expected to make public remarks later in the day after Putin’s press conference, rather than having a joint briefing. The White House didn’t immediately confirm or deny Putin’s takeaway on the meeting with respect to an agreement on the future of the two countries’ ambassadors.
“The consultations will begin on a whole raft of diplomatic issues,” Putin told reporters of the plan. “As has already been said a great deal have accumulated over time and we believe the American side is determined to look at solutions.”
Putin recalled Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, shortly after the Biden administration announced new sanctions on Russian officials over the treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Putin has denied mistreating or poisoning Navalny, though the intelligence community has claimed he’s responsible.
On Wednesday, Biden and Putin met for less than three hours—significantly less than the four to five hours that the White House had anticipated.
Biden, who has had a tense relationship with Putin spanning several years, called for the two to meet in Geneva, Switzerland—neutral territory—for their first face-to-face meeting since Biden was sworn in as president. They’ve previously had multiple phone calls to discuss Biden’s concerns about Russia.
Putin said he wasn’t invited to the White House, as he had previously been under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
“We have to have the right conditions before we can get to that place,” Putin said.