Putin, Afghans among top gift givers to Bidens in 2021
WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia’s president and the deposed leader of Afghanistan were among the top gift givers to President Joe Biden and his family in 2021, according to federal documents published on Thursday.
In happier times between all three countries, Vladimir Putin gave Biden a $12,000 lacquer writing box and pen when they met at a highly anticipated summit in Geneva, Switzerland in June 2021.
And, then-Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani and his wife gave the U.S. president and first lady Jill Biden silk rugs worth an estimated $28,800 later that month.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia turned sour shortly after the Geneva meeting and have plummeted since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February. Ghani, meanwhile, fled Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. withdrew from the country on Biden's orders in August, 2021.
Biden also in June received a brass and lapis lazuli jewelry box, worth an estimated $1,150 from Abdullah Abdullah, who was then considered to be the number 2 in the Afghan government. And Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was given a carpet valued at $2,650 in March from Ghani.
The details were contained in the State Department’s annual accounting of gifts to U.S. officials from world leaders posted on the website of the Federal Register on Thursday. The formal publication of the list, covering 2021, will come on Friday.
All of the Putin and Ghani gifts were transferred to the National Archives, a requirement for any gift to a U.S. official valued at more than $415. The recipient has the option of paying the estimated value and keeping the gift.
However, Biden decided to retain, at least for official display, a photograph of the late British monarch Queen Elizabeth II. The photo, in a silver frame was presented to the president on the occasion of a Group of Seven summit in southeast England and is estimated to be worth $2,200.
According to the records, Putin gave Biden a “Kholuy Lacquer Miniature Workshop Desk Writing Set and Pen” on the occasion of their meeting in Geneva on June 16, 2021.
There are no other gifts from Putin or other Russian officials to Biden or U.S. officials documented in the filing.
Later that month, well after Biden had given the order for American forces to withdraw from Afghanistan in April, Ghani and his wife, Rula, gave Joe and Jill Biden two silk carpets: one valued $9,600 and the other $19,200, according to the list.
At the time, U.S. officials believed that Ghani's government and security forces could survive the withdrawal of American troops. A White House statement from Biden's meeting with Ghani on June 25th said that “the U.S. and Afghan leaders firmly agreed that although U.S. troops are leaving Afghanistan, the strong bilateral partnership will continue.”
In another relationship turned sour, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reported receiving a porcelain vase worth $2,000 from the former foreign policy chief of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi. The exchange took place in March, 2021, just two months after the Biden administration took office and the vase is now with the General Services Administration.
Two years later, the U.S. and China are now at odds on numerous issues ranging from Russia's war in Ukraine to Chinese policies regarding Taiwan, Tibet, the South China Sea, Hong Hong and human rights.