WASHINGTON — Vladimir Putin gifted President Joe Biden a distinctive Russian desk set valued at $12,000 after their meeting in Geneva in June 2021, the most expensive gift Biden received from a foreign leader that year.
A new government report listed the “Kholuy Lacquer Miniature Workshop Desk Writing Set and Pen” among the dozens of items Biden and other administration officials received last year. Biden accepted it from the Russian president around their high-stakes summit, their last and only face-to-face meeting before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the White House two months ago, he had a far more modest offering: an American flag.
First lady Jill Biden accepted a silk carpet from Afghanistan’s first lady valued at $19,200 in June 2021, just weeks before her husband’s government fell in the face of a rapid Taliban takeover following the US military withdrawal.
Federal law requires the State Department to list any gifts from foreign dignitaries to senior US officials that exceed $415 in value.
The annual report from the Office of the Chief of Protocol offers insight into ways in which foreign leaders try to personalize diplomacy with the White House.
Then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for instance, gave Biden two dog bowls, among other items, around their first face-to-face meeting in June 2021. The first gift Biden accepted was a crystal bowl from Ireland’s prime minister, though the report failed to note it was filled with shamrocks.
The president of Vietnam gave Biden a sand painting — of Biden. Queen Elizabeth II offered Biden a framed photo of herself, as was the custom of the late British monarch.
Most of the items Biden received were transferred to the National Archives, but some, like the queen’s photo, were kept for “official display,” according to the report. Biden also retained a pen drawing of his childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a gift from then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Vice President Kamala Harris also kept for display a chess set that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave her in September 2021.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was one of the few officials who opted to purchase from the government gifts he had received — wine, books and a coin presented by Pope Francis.