Putin-Biden summit: Body language expert gives his view on events in Geneva

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have come face-to-face in Geneva for the first time as world leaders for crunch talks as the pair try to find some common ground amid the most strained US-Russian relations in years. 

The world watched both men closely to see whether the two nuclear-armed adversaries got along, and MailOnline has recruited a pair of trained eyes to reveal how the two presidents approached the summit. 

Body language expert Robin Kermode  has been watching the summit closely, with each glance and gesture scrutinized to see what it can tell us about two of the world’s most-powerful men.

From ‘head boy’ Biden’s over-eagerness to please and reliance on notes, to ‘school bully’ Putin’s relaxed air and resigned demeanor, here are his takes on events in Geneva… 

What we saw: Biden and Putin shake hands on the steps of Villa la Grange, in Geneva, as they come face-to-face for the first time since Biden became president.

What the expert saw: Hand sanitizer at the ready, they’ve obviously both agreed to go for the traditional handshake. Here we see equal power in both hands. 

Note Biden’s strong thumb which belies the over-energised facial expressions – he is trying a little too hard to be welcoming. Putin has the upper hand here with confident, lowered chin and classic camera gaze.

It’s also interesting that all the aides around them are wearing masks but they are not. The full handshake suggests an open dialogue and honest intentions. A mask and an elbow bump is hardly entente cordialle. 

What we saw: Biden and Putin are shown into the hallway where they wait for a few moments before going into the library for their talks to take place .

What the expert saw: We could all be forgiven for thinking that there is a very bad smell in the room … 

The poker faces with downturned lip corners, jaw tension and fixed faces suggest two men trying to make the best of a distasteful situation.

What we saw: Biden and Putin are shown into the library ahead of several hours of tense talks

What the expert saw: The moment of tension as they both wait.

Biden plays the professional political game, the poker player – as if to say, ‘I might even have three aces, you just don’t know’.

Putin’s raised eyebrows, tension in his left hand, displacement activity with his right hand playing with the chair arm and the considered nonchalant look upwards with a defiant lean back in the chair suggest a petulant teenager accused of kicking the ball through the science block window.

What we saw: Biden and Putin smile for the cameras before photographers are told to leave so talks can start 

What the expert saw: Both have softened a little as things get under way. But both men have clearly decided how they are going to play this one today.

Biden still more upright and formal. Looking a tad like the school Head Boy.

Putin playing passive aggressive, high status by leaning back – almost slouched in the chair. Both his hands are still very active though, suggesting someone ready to move into action if necessary. 

Looking a tad like the school bully.

What we saw: Biden collects a stack of flash cards and tucks them into his jacket pocket

What the expert saw: Really interesting that Biden takes up his notes. 

Putin might well have notes on the desk but he doesn’t touch them. Holding notes is not just a sign of wanting to keep your mind on track, it’s also a comforter – a gesture that aids displacement activity. 

That is why people feel more comfortable if they hold a pen when giving a talk. 

What we saw: Biden waves to the cameras after meeting Swiss President Guy Parmelin at the Villa La Grange in Geneva, where the summit will take place

What the expert saw: Biden looking like he’s try hard to appear open. The hand is a little too wide and the smile a little too broad compared with the tension around the jaw and the eyes.

Parmelin’s soft shoulders and open mouth suggesting there is nothing he can do to help the inevitable …

What we saw: Putin is greeted by President Parmelin and waves to the cameras before entering the Villa La Grange

What the expert saw: Putin almost doing a Norman Wisdom here – ‘The Cheeky Putin’. 

He uncharacteristically lowers his shoulder and neck and is attempting something a genuine smile. His hand is less forced open than Biden’s. 

What we saw: Putin, Parmelin and Biden pause for a joint photo opportunity on the steps of Villa de la Grange

What the expert saw: All three men looking very stilted. All have lip corner edges heading distinctly downwards. There seems little chance at this stage of even a faint smile.

Biden standing as if for a penalty shoot out, covering America’s crown jewels,

Parmelin’s hands are looking more resigned as if to say. ‘The ball is going to come, it’s going to come hard and there’s no way this is not going to hurt.’

Putin looking like he’s been caught by the head teacher and he know’s there’s no way out of a detention, irritating though it is to have to go through this charade.

What we saw: Putin and Parmelin walk into Villa de la Grange for another photo opportunity before the summit

What our expert saw: What is it with the lip tension today?!

Putin’s open eyes and raised eyebrows suggest resignation about something that just has to done, catching the camera self-consciously as Ricky Gervais might have done in The Office.

What we saw: Biden and Putin exchange words in the hall of Villa de la Grange before being shown in to the library 

What our expert saw: Always difficult to read a still picture without complete context but neither’s eyes are open, suggested a pretty guarded stance. 

They are physically very close here with Biden not having to reach from his shoulders at all. For most people this would feel unnaturally and uncomfortably close but they seem comfortable with this.

Putin, as usual, keeps his chin down and looks – as if raising his head might make him look shorter and subservient.

I can’t help feeling that this looks like the head of a family giving gentle advice to a wayward nephew.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk