El Dorado News-Times

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.

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.

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