Jun 16, 2021 - Podcasts

Biden meets Putin

Later today, President Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will be the first meeting between the two since Biden took office. What’s it going to be like inside that room?

  • Plus, more evidence of COVID’s long term effects.
  • And, the new corporate must-have? The company retreat.

Guests: Axios' Margaret Talev, Glen Johnson, Marisa Fernandez, and Bryan Walsh.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Justin Kaufmann, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected].

Go deeper:


NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, June 16th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: More evidence of covid’s long term effects. Plus, the new corporate must-have? The company retreat.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: behind the scenes of Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin’s big meeting.

Later today, President Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will be the first meeting between the two since Biden took office.

What’s it going to be like inside that room? Well, we have two people with a lot of experience inside that room: our Managing Editor of Politics Margaret Talev and political editor Glen Johnson.

NIALA: Later today, President Biden will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will be the first meeting between the two since Biden took office. What's it going to be like inside that room?

Well, we have two people with a lot of experience inside that room, our managing editor of politics, Margaret Talev, and our political editor, Glen Johnson. Good morning to you both.

MARGARET TALEV: Good morning. Niala

NIALA: When I say inside the room, Glenn, you've actually been in this situation before.

GLEN JOHNSON: I had the unique circumstance of having the opportunity to work for the secretary of state for four years, from 2013 to 2017. So I traveled all around the world with John Kerry and among those travels were five trips to Russia and on almost all of them, we met with president Putin.

NIALA: Margaret, what about you?

MARGARET: right outside the room waiting to try to get into the room and then have had the, once was enough, in a lifetime experience of a joint news conference with the us president of Letterman Putin after such a summit.

And of course I'm talking about Helsinki summer of 2018, where President Trump came out, stood alongside Vladimir Putin and said he had talked to the Russian leader and had no reason to believe he'd interfered in U S elections.

NIALA: Glen, let's talk tactics. What do we think will be engaged in this conversation?

GLEN: President Putin, former KGB officer, is famous for trying to disarm his counterparts by showing up or calling them into the Kremlin very late for meeting.

Then when they finally do get in, he begins with this airing of grievances where he talks about there's not enough respect paid to Russia for its tremendous loss of life in World War II. He'll talk about the war in Afghanistan. And so this thing has the effect of lulling them or taking the edge off of them when you're ready to run onto the field and, hit somebody all of a sudden you're sitting on the sidelines for quite a while. So that's one tactic. And interestingly enough, what the Biden administration did was they simply said, we're not showing up at the venue until the Russian president is there.

So they took one tool out, at least that of Vladimir Putin.

NIALA: Margaret, what does President Biden want to get out of this meeting?

MARGARET: He wants, of course, to get Russia, to stop interfering in U.S. elections. He wants Russia to stop allowing the kind of, cyber hacking, massive cyber hacking that we're seeing going on. And he would like to see Russia cool it with Ukraine and aggressions in that region.

And, see if there's any common ground on things like, nuclear non-proliferation or, climate change or. Trying to stabilize the Middle East potential areas where they could cooperate

NIALA: Glen what about President Putin? What does he want?

GLEN: I think he gets a lot of what he wants just when he steps off the plane and then into the room with the president of the United States. He's facing some real domestic headwinds in Russia, economic issues or problems. There's been a real criticism of, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, obviously the Navalny situation where he's put one of his prime critics in jail.

It's brought a lot of international scorn on him. And a lot of that instantly goes away when he steps up, side by side with the president of United States. Not only does it confer some stature on him that he badly needs right now, but it also allows him to turn the page or distract from the domestic issues that have really been plaguing him.

NIALA: How do we decode what is said after the meeting and the news conference?

GLEN: The White House did not want to do a joint news conference because that's a chance for the Russians to re-litigate what happened behind closed doors and also for President Putin to put a spin on it that puts President Biden in a corner.

So they're going to go consecutively, with President Putin going first.

MARGARET: You know, they both have a real decision to make, which is how much do you disclose about what was said in the privacy of that meeting? How much do you make public and how much do you hold to yourself?

And there's another question which is inside that meeting, how much was directly said or directly threatened, how much is implied? So I think the news conferences afterwards are, to an extent, a show. They are what both sides want to message up publicly. There's in the part of the U.S. administration, a feeling that the less that's said in public and the less show and flash and bang there is around this.

The more to the extent that anything's possible might actually be possible.

NIALA: Margaret Talev is Axios' managing editor for politics. Glen Johnson is our politics editor.

Thank you.

NIALA: In 15 seconds, new, grim data about the long-term effects of COVID.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

About one out of four people infected with COVID had one or more new or persistent medical conditions a month after they were first infected

Axios' Marisa Fernandez has what you need to know about this new study. That's the largest to date of COVID long haul symptoms.


I think what is, I think the most surprising about this is that these long haulers, or these people who have been diagnosed with COVID, are still having a range of symptoms. This is just affecting not only people with severe COVID, but people who had mild or asymptomatic illness.

NIALA: And when we say this is affecting them, what kind of things are we talking about?

MARISA: So this can be anything from brain fog, fatigue, depression, anxiety, still people are experiencing, months and months later with a lack of taste and smell. This is nearly 2 million people who have been recorded in this white paper study. There can also be heightened heart rate, heart murmurs, lots of other serious things that doctors are trying to look for.

NIALA: Does this study then raise more questions than provide answers?

MARISA: I think this study signals how puzzling this illness is for researchers. Many Americans in this country are understandably ready to move past this dark period that we've been experiencing, but that hasn't been possible for some of those who've been living with an array of symptoms. And researchers and scientists and even long COVID survivors who have turned into advocates, you know, will tell you there is still not a diagnostic code for people with long COVID. Or even that health insurers don't know how to bill these survivors yet.

It's just like a whole process that we really haven't hashed out yet.

NIALA: Axios' health care reporter, Marisa Fernandez. Thanks, Marisa.

MARISA: Thank you.


NIALA: The pandemic taught many of us, including our podcast Axios today that we can do all of our work from home remotely, but it's also really hard to have a company culture when you're not physically together, which is why Axios' Bryan Walsh has been researching the rise of the company retreat.

Hey, Bryan.

BRYAN WALSH: How's it going?

NIALA: Bryan. I think people used to make fun of company retreats, but has the pandemic changed the role of retreats and gathering together?

BRYAN: Corporate retreats went from something that was nice to have even something that I think a lot of employees probably dreaded. to something you, you really have to have in the age of, of hybrid and remote work.

And that's because if you're not getting that corporate culture by osmosis, just by being in the office day in, day out, which I think is going to be the case for a lot of workers going forward. You need to find a place where people can spend face-to-face time together in a concentrated environment, At this moment, it's particularly important for like those people who were hired during the pandemic, to get a chance to do this because they haven't met a lot of their coworkers at all.

NIALA: So what are we seeing from companies with white collar workers on this front?

BRYAN: Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, he thinks that it might be a good idea for the company actually to buy a retreat somewhere, buy a ranch, and actually just have that as an ongoing place where employees can go work together, meet each other form culture, form bonds, and just have that as an ongoing thing.

To me, that's a really innovative way to do it. I mean, not many companies have the budget or the wherewithal to actually buy their own ranch, I assume. And that probably includes Axios, unfortunately.

NIALA: Okay. Jim Vandehei. Axios CEO. If you're listening, you heard it from Bryan Walsh. First, we want you to buy a ranch for us.

Axios' future correspondent, Bryan Walsh. Thanks, Bryan.

BRYAN: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at [email protected] or reach out to me on Twitter.

If you want more news before tomorrow - tune into our afternoon podcast Axios Re:Cap.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Go deeper