By Lisa Zengarini
Several issues discussed by Presidents Putin and Biden are of particular concern for the 350 member Churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
These include the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, climate change and the growing spectre of catastrophic nuclear conflict, particularly in the context of declining cooperation in arms control and increasing geo-political tensions.
Call to reduce tensions and improve cooperation
In an open letter addressed to the two leaders, WCC acting general secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, urged them to reduce tensions between their countries and work together in addressing these crises.
“As leaders of your two nations, with their particular histories and current roles in world affairs, you have a special responsibility for reducing tensions and achieving a stable and predictable relationship, so as to improve rather than diminish the prospects of effective global cooperation in addressing the multiple complex crises the world faces today,” the letter sent on Monday said. “We pray that the God of life and peace will inspire and guide you in this essential task, for the good of your own peoples, for our interdependent human community, and for God’s precious and unique creation.”
Finding the ways of peace and justice
The WCC also shared a prayer for Presidents Biden and Putin, as well as for all world leaders, asking for God’s guidance so they may find the “ways of peace and justice” and be “delivered from the sin which results in war and violence” and urging the good of all humanity and the betterment of the world’s environment.
“As these two world leaders meet at this time, may you place around them counsellors and advisors, whose passions lie beyond the interests of the Russia and the United States of America,” the prayer reads.
The summit at the lakeside Villa La Grange in Geneva lasted less than four hours and included two rounds of talks.
Putin, who was first to brief reporters, said the meeting had been constructive, without hostility, and had showed the leaders' desire to understand each other. He also said Russia and the United States shared a responsibility for nuclear stability, and would hold talks on possible changes to their recently extended New START arms limitation treaty.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. charges - denied by Moscow - of meddling in the 2016 election that brought Donald Trump to the White House.
They sank further in March when Biden said he thought Putin was a "killer", prompting Russia to recall Antonov to Washington for consultations. The United States recalled its ambassador in April. During the Summit they agreed to return ambassadors to each other's capitals.