US President Joe Biden gifted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a pair of custom Aviators from a company that provides the US military and NATO partners with their sunglasses, a White House official said after the pair met on Wednesday.
The gift was interpreted as an cheeky jab at Putin and Russia, which have come under scrutiny and criticism from NATO allies for Moscow’s disruptive behavior in recent years.
The Aviators gifted to Putin were made by Randolph USA, the company which paired with the US military in 1978 to make the HGU-4/P Aviator used by fighter pilots. “They have since provided the US military and NATO partners with their high-level, durable aviators, manufactured domestically in their Massachusetts factory,” a White House official told reporters.
Biden also gifted Putin with a crystal sculpture of an American Bison, “a stately interpretation of one of our nation’s most majestic mammals and representative of strength, unity, resilience,” the official added.
🇷🇺🇺🇸 #RussiaUS Joint Statement on Strategic Stability:— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) June 16, 2021
🤝 #Russia & #US will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future. We seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.
🔗 https://t.co/V72I33CKxz pic.twitter.com/qRtPeZyddd
The official noted that European bison were reintroduced in Russia over the past 20 years by rewilding numerous sites after extinction in 1927.
“The sculpture will be presented on a cherry wood base, symbolic of our nation’s first president, George Washington, with a custom engraved inscription plaque commemorating the meeting between President Biden and President Putin,” the White House official said.
Biden and Putin met in Geneva to hash out differences in a highly anticipated summit that the US president invited Putin to.
Both leaders held separate press conferences despite an initial plan to have a joint one.
During both press conferences, an upbeat tone was struck, and a joint declaration was released.
Ambassadors will return to their respective posts after Washington and Moscow pulled their envoys since ties reached a new low.
According to Russia's deputy foreign minister, Russia’s ambassador to Washington is expected to be back in the US by the end of June. US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan departed Moscow in April after the Kremlin recommended he leave for consultations with Biden administration officials.