The Urgent Need for a Biden-Putin Summit

Norman Solomon calls on the U.S. president to remember 1967 and the “Spirit of Glassboro.”

The mansion in Glassboro, N.J., that held the 1967 summit between U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin. (Wikimedia Commons)

By Norman Solomon

Last week’s outbreak of rhetorical hostilities between the White House and the Kremlin has heightened the urgent need for a summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. The spate of mutual denunciations is catnip for mass media and fuel for hardliners in both countries. But for the world at large, under the doomsday shadow of nuclear arsenals brandished by the United States and Russia, the latest developments are terribly ominous.

Whatever you think of Biden’s assertion during an ABC News interview that Russia’s President Putin is “a killer” — and whether or not you think the label might apply to Biden, given his pro-war record — the existential imperative of U.S.-Russian relations is to avert a nuclear war. Biden’s claim during the same interview that Putin does not have “a soul” indicates that much of the new president’s foreign-policy thinking is stuck in a cold-war rut.

No doubt many Americans have welcomed Biden’s holier-than-thou stance toward Putin. But an overarching reality is routinely hidden in plain sight: Everyone’s survival on this planet hinges on Washington-Moscow conflicts not spinning out of control.


Let’s face it: Biden is playing to the domestic anti-Russia gallery in the U.S. media and “defense” establishment, while making a dangerous mockery of his own claims to be a champion of diplomatic approaches to foreign affairs.

“Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy,” Biden said when he spoke at the State Department in early February. Those who’ve been heartened by such statements during the first two months of Biden’s presidency should insist that he live up to that vow by meeting with the head of the Russian government.

Attitude Adjustment

But it’s now clear that much more is needed from Biden than just willingness to sit down with Putin. Biden also needs a major attitude adjustment. He would greatly benefit from pondering what happened in a small New Jersey town for a few days in the early summer of 1967.

Keep in mind that at the time, the Soviet Union was in the iron grip of Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Alexei Kosygin, who saw to it that freedom of the press or the right to publicly dissent did not exist inside their nation. Compared to those days, Russia under Vladimir Putin in 2021 has far more freedom in terms of media, politics and society as a whole.

The Soviet repression and violation of human rights didn’t stop President Lyndon B. Johnson from trying to reduce the chances of the world blowing up. He engaged in real summitry with Kosygin. Their extended talks on the campus of Glassboro State College gave rise to what became known as “the Spirit of Glassboro.”

Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, left, with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson at the Glassboro Summit, June 1967. (Yoichi Okamoto, Wikimedia Commons)

That spirit signified only a limited breakthrough. It did not prevent the next year’s Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, or the continuing horrific American escalation of the war in Vietnam. Yet it was genuine diplomatic dialogue — at the highest levels of government — and it decreased the chances of nuclear annihilation.

In the process, LBJ wouldn’t have dreamed of proclaiming his Soviet counterpart “a killer” or declaring him to be without a soul. After more than a dozen hours of direct talks, Johnson stood next to Kosygin and, in effect, made a plea for safeguarding human survival. “We have made further progress in an effort to improve our understanding of each other’s thinking on a number of questions,” Johnson said.

Fifty-four years later, with mutual hostility now at fever pitch in Washington and Moscow, such understanding is essential. But President Biden is not showing that he has the wisdom to seek it.

A former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack F. Matlock, wrote last month that “the vital interests of both countries are endangered when their governments treat the other as a threat, or worse, an enemy, rather than as a potential and necessary partner.” He noted that the shared challenges include dealing with threats posed by “nuclear weapons, pandemics, global warming and ever more destructive technologies if used in warfare.”

Matlock, who served as the top American envoy in Moscow from 1987 to 1991, added:

“Presidents Biden and Putin now have the opportunity to find ways to cooperate in dealing with global threats, and encouraging others to do so as well. That would constitute a new operating system, suited to the threats of the present and future rather than replaying follies of the past.”

No matter how much we might wish to forget or deny it, we are tied together — as a matter of survival — by a fraying thread of relations between the United States and Russia.

For those in the U.S. government, media and general public who don’t want a Biden-Putin summit to happen, there is a simple question: “Do you want to reduce the chances of nuclear war?” Assuming the answer is yes, any opposition to such a summit is illogical at best.

If the leaders of the two countries with more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads can’t have a summit meeting and talk with each other, we’re in trouble. Real trouble.

Norman Solomon is the national director of and the author of many books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. 

This article is from,

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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24 comments for “The Urgent Need for a Biden-Putin Summit

  1. Antiwar7
    March 25, 2021 at 23:07

    Unfortunately, the US govt, and the Biden administration in particular, is not interested in peace.

    The US has been at war, in wars of choice, almost its entire existence. A serial killer on a global scale.

  2. michael888
    March 25, 2021 at 17:15

    When the country’s foreign policy is based on the Conspiracy Theory of Russiagate, this is exactly what you would expect.

  3. Piotr Berman
    March 25, 2021 at 16:20

    Mental atrophy of Atlantic elite (as expressed by Atlantic Council, NATO etc., and of course by Blinken et al.) reached the level that makes me skeptical about any utility of summits. Least of all, with Biden, the likes of Blinken give appearance that they may think, even if they studiously hide it.

  4. JBAshburnva
    March 25, 2021 at 13:49

    Stephanopoulos asked Biden if Putin were a killer, and he haltingly answered “Uh, huh.” Not what one could characterize as an
    assertion. Biden also re-signed the START agreement as an early act of his Administration.

    Biden was cornered on a number of fronts, before he took office. The anti-China, anti-Russia propaganda had grown to a frenzy, in the midst of a campaign, where the expectation was created for the new President to one-up the predecessor. Judging him quickly based upon a brief period seems to me to be jumping the gun.

    What is clear is that “American Exceptionalism” no longer has a foundation in reality. Donald Trump certainly helped finish that one off. What will it be replaced with, is the big question. It may not be very pretty, but hopefully the new framework will allow for the human race to avoid incineration. A summit is a good idea.

    For me, the biggest test for Biden foreign policy is: Will he have the guts to stand up to the giant pharma companies, circumvent the patents on the covid vaccine, and work with poor countries to produce their own? Want to assert a new USA? That would be the best way to do it!

  5. rosemerry
    March 25, 2021 at 12:54

    Surely nobody, even diehard supporters of the “Democratic Party”, if they had any powers of observation, could claim that Russia was the cause of the dissension. For twenty years Pres. Putin has gone out of his way to entice the USA into discussions, agreements. He certainly does not use offensive personal insults and is a far more active “Christian”!!! than Joe Biden (look at Biden’s long record of interference and violence.) So many interviews over the last twenty years can be seen on youtube- I wonder how many Americans an other Russophobes bother to try and understand the point of view of modern Russia and its leaders?
    To act as a”tough guy” in such a dangerous world can only impress the ignorant propagandised US population.

  6. onno
    March 25, 2021 at 09:41

    Those were meetings between normal & intelligent leaders NOT with a senile, incompetent person like Biden!!

  7. KiwiAntz
    March 25, 2021 at 04:12

    Why would Putin lower himself to have a Summit with Biden who insulted Putin by calling him a killer? Biden should look in the mirror, he’s the true killer? Whenever the US preaches from its pulpit about Human rights & Atrocities, the World just rolls its eyes & recalls the million people murdered in Iraq thanks to the USA’s illegal War during the 1990’s! The barefaced cheek to lecture others defies belief! America has displayed a tone deaf, arrogant & pig ignorant insulting attitude to both Russia & China with a zero sum game mentality! It has been the Top dog for so long that it can’t or won’t tolerate any challenges to its Hegemony despite the overwhelming evidence that the US is in massive decline as a Superpower! Having seen the recent disastrous Chinese/US meeting in Alaska, the Biden Administration has demonstrated that it has no interest, whatsoever, in repairing relationships with either Russia or China? Why? Because America must have a bogeyman scapegoat to blame all their problems on & who better than the Russians & Chinese! And the US must justify their ridiculous & outrageous Military spending of $1 trillion dollars a year by creating enemies out of Russia & China while their Country rots from within. So you can kiss any hope of peace goodbye because America doesn’t want peace, it’s Leaders realise that the entire US Economy depends on Weapons Manufacturing & Wars to create a market for these weapons! Warmongering is as American as apple pie & mass shootings!

  8. Joel Walbert
    March 24, 2021 at 22:23

    Never will happen. Biden could not handle a conversation with Putin. He does not have the cognitive ability to do so.

    • rosemerry
      March 25, 2021 at 12:58

      Exactly-also he has not the courage. As they say-Putin would kill him! How Putin can be so patient amazes me, but it seems to be running out.
      Listen to his 5 minute reply to Biden’s atrocious nonsense and hear a genuine statesman with understanding and knowledge of his own people and of others including the USA.

  9. Kim Dixon
    March 24, 2021 at 20:09

    This latest aggression and suicidal idiocy, as always, stems from the Neocons who run this government, no matter which wing of the War Party happens to be in change.

    The second-greatest propaganda coup by those warmongers was in moving rank-and-file Democrats into the sort of blind hatred of Russia that would have done raving Birchers proud. And all because the DNC refused to admit that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 because she was a malignant reactionary, and so blamed Russia and Putin.

    Their greatest coup, though, was in making whole generations of Americans forget that the missiles sit waiting in their silos, ready to end human civilization 20 minutes after a simple technological mistake, or the latest Neocon madness, releases them.

  10. Anonymot
    March 24, 2021 at 19:39

    Biden will meet with Putin when the CIA is ready for that to happen and they are in no hurry.

  11. Catherine Orloff
    March 24, 2021 at 19:11

    excellent article. praying for peace and diplomacy!

  12. Jim Thomas
    March 24, 2021 at 17:03

    I never entertained any hope that Biden would do anything but serve the 1%, which he has dutifully done for his entire political career. This conclusion was further reinforced by his selection of the worst possible group of neocon warmongers on the planet for his foreign policy advisers and “diplomatic team”. However, I did hope (a word I use reluctantly after the Obama years) that this Country’s performance and image on the world stage might improve to some marginal extent in comparison to the Trump/Pompeo clown act. So much for hope. It is impossible to describe the extent of the disaster which Biden and his team has created with their foolish, child like insults hurled against the well disciplined, professional and respectful Russian and Chinese diplomats. I cannot recall any performances on the world stage which even compare to the low level of performance by these amateurs. The article characterizes the tension created by this wholly unnecessary and foolish attack by the U.S. representatives as an “outbreak” of rhetorical hostlites and “mutual hostility”. It is nothing of the kind. It is a record breaking act of aggression by the fools acting on behalf of this Country, an act which has absolutely no upside and the results of (1) further tarnishing of this Country – if that is even possible; and (2) providing further incentive for the rest of the world (except for our captive “allies” who for one reason or another cannot escape the U.S. tentacles) to band together in an effort to defend themselves against the wholly unjustified aggression of this Country. Make no mistake. This is a game changer. The damage done by these bumbling fools cannot be overestimated. As for the suggestion that Biden engage Putin in a “summit”, I have the following comments: 1. That would be analogous to matching up Muhammad Ali against a blind, one armed, one legged 6 year old child (I recognize that is a bad analogy because Ali would have compassion and not take participate in such a match – and Putin would probably show some mercy to the U.S. cripple as well. 2. I would actually like for that summit to occur because I think the predictably disastrous performance by Biden against a man who is very knowledgeable about world history and highly qualified to represent Russia on the world stage might enlighten people in this Country to the fact that this Country has become a laughingstock on the world stage. It is feared only because of its raw power. It is not respected and does not deserve to be respected. Its claims for the love of democracy and to be a force of good in the world are fraudulent. It is like a school bully who is armed with automatic weapons. I hope that everyone has read and/or listened to, the responses of the representatives of China and Russia to the disrespect and insults hurled at their Countries. I agree with everything they said. They are right. Our representatives are wrong. I am embarrassed that they are authorized to speak for my Country.

  13. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    March 24, 2021 at 16:57

    Bizarre! Moi je n’ai vu aucun énervement de la part de Monsieur Poutine, président de la Russie..

    Le Nazgul washingtonien Biden, par contre, semble avoir un régime de vache enragée pour sortir tant de fiel envers la Russie et son Président.

  14. Tony
    March 24, 2021 at 16:47

    Good article.

    President Johnson did support improved relations with the Soviet Union but what he wanted, and what he achieved, was well short of what President Kennedy would have wanted. Still worth having though.

    According to Robert Dallek’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, he was warned by Walt Rostow that “The Republicans will run on ‘I will go to Moscow.’” Nixon may well have planned to do that.
    By holding a summit, President Johnson could, for one thing, prevent Nixon or Romney from gaining a political advantage.

    Incredible though it may seem, even Zbigniew Brzezinski is quoted as supporting a summit and seemed quite conciliatory.

    Presumably, Kosygin had read the KGB report on the Kennedy assassination which reportedly identified Johnson as being responsible.

    “By September 16 1965, the Soviet KGB had concluded that Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Kennedy assassination.”

    “LBJ and the Kennedy Killing” by James T. Tague p326. The author was slightly injured in Dallas when a stray bullet caused a piece of concrete to fly upwards and hit him in the face.

  15. truth first
    March 24, 2021 at 16:00

    Many American presidents have started wars or killings based on bullshit to distract Americans from some trouble that they were in. Also leaders around the world are very tired of American hypocrisy and lies knowing that Americans have killed far more innocents since WW2 than they have.
    America threatens us all when they try to act like the good guys.

  16. DH Fabian
    March 24, 2021 at 15:47

    Putin has been the one gro9wup in the room ever since, following Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat, Democrats falsely accused Russia of “election interference.” For decades, Biden has been a solid conservative, pro-war hard-liner. My biggest fear is that he will see a catastrophic war as the only way out of the deep rut the US dug itself into. Please assure me he isn’t caught up in a re-enactment of an old WWll movie, where the US comes out victorious.

  17. Donald Duck
    March 24, 2021 at 15:24

    The War Party ensconced in the Deep State, the CIA, military, think-tanks, the cold-war institutions seem to have their set their hearts on a winnable hot war. But as the famous American Tennis star John McEnroe might have said: ”You cannot be serious.” But hey, they are serious aren’t they? Anyone who thinks in terms of a winnable hot war is not so much serious, but is seriously demented. In their warped terms the war loonies think it can be done. But in fact it is a technical impossibility – a mutual suicide fact, not just for them, but for the whole of mankind. Above the equator the human race will be wiped out. There are possibilities of survival in the global south, perhaps in tip of Chile or South Africa, and maybe Australia, where the human race might still hold a toe-hold. But it will be centuries for any recovery to take place, if ever. That’s it, end of argument.

    How did we come to this impasse, I wonder. Was the irrational side of human nature ultimately predominate. In Freud’s theory of the ever shifting balance between Eros and Thanatos, love and hate, reason and madness, will this ultimate catastrophe play out. Who knows?

  18. Brian Bacon
    March 24, 2021 at 15:19

    Such a summit is much needed but it’s not going to happen. Biden does not have the mental acuity to carry out any kind of negotiation especially with a counterpart as formidable as VP. His handlers will not allow him in any kind of unscripted situation so they will certainly not permit him to go head-to-head with Putin.

    • Anonymot
      March 24, 2021 at 19:46

      You have nailed it. The decision is his “handlers” not yours or mine or anyone in the public or even the public en masse. Guess who his handlers are.

  19. March 24, 2021 at 14:57

    Yeah. Agreed.
    How about a summit to start slowly but surely working things out for the better? How about that.
    This ain’t rocket science and it ain’t complicated, so how about a bit of real talking across the table?
    How about a little respect please. How about that?
    Man. How about some snakes have a chance to achieve some peace? How about that?
    I want peace – what do you want?

  20. Susan Leslie
    March 24, 2021 at 12:55

    Also urgent need for US/China summit. We need to get over all of the propaganda narratives inundating this country and start having conversations instead of wars!

    • March 24, 2021 at 15:02

      Agreed. 100% agreed.
      How about some real talking across the table to make a real difference.
      How about getting rid of those who don’t fully appreciate the geopolitical situation and the precarious predicament the US of A finds itself within. How about that?
      How about a Constitutional Convention after the talks across the table happen. How about that?
      How about some things start changing for the better – what do you think about that? I want peace. What do you want?
      How about that?

  21. evelync
    March 24, 2021 at 12:28

    Wow, thank you Norman Solomon…

    Your civic mindedness and sober maturity are impressive, having the strength to put behind you any frustration, rage, disappointment, hopelessness that manifested themselves in my initial reaction to Biden’s childish language compromised by politics and Cold War illusions that seem to drive the war machine that is Washington DC.

    You have the statesmanship to rise above all that to invite our Cold War president to think twice and act like a responsible statesman for the sake of preventing more chaos than there already is.

    Thank you.

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