Joe Biden Gifts Vladimir Putin With a Crystal Bison and a Pair of Custom Aviators

Joe Biden has had a frosty relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, but the U.S. president came bearing gifts when the two met face-to-face for the first time since Biden took office.

Biden gifted Putin with a crystal sculpture of an American bison—considered one of the United States' most majestic mammals and a symbol of strength, unity and resilience, a White House official told reporters. The sculpture, made by Steuben, was presented on a cherry wood base in homage to President George Washington, with a custom engraved plaque commemorating the Biden-Putin meeting.

Biden also gave Putin a pair of custom aviators from Randolph USA, which has produced the HGU-4/P Aviator designed for fighter pilots in the U.S. military since the 1970s. Biden is known to frequently wear the same style of sunglasses, including during his trip to Geneva for Wednesday's meeting with Putin.

It's unclear what, if anything, Putin gifted to Biden in return. It's customary for world leaders to exchange gifts when they hold diplomatic meetings.

Both Biden and Putin came out of the nearly three-hour meeting describing it as cordial.

"There were no threats, just simple assertions made," Biden said. "It was just letting him know where I stood, what we thought we could accomplish together."

But the two leaders have frequently been at odds in the past. Biden has signed off on multiple sanctions against Russia since taking office in January. Both countries also recalled their ambassadors from their posts as tensions continued to escalate. Putin said Wednesday that they have agreed to return the ambassadors to Moscow and Washington.

Their tense relationship stretches back to Biden's time as vice president. In a 2014 New Yorker article, Biden recalled that he told Putin in person that he believed the Russian leader and former KGB officer was soulless.

"I said, 'Mr. Prime Minister, I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul,'" Biden said, according to the article.

He described the exchange again in an ABC News interview in March and agreed with a description of Putin as a "killer."

"I said, 'Looked in your eyes and I don't think you have a soul,'" Biden said. "And looked back and he said, 'We understand each other.'"

Joe Biden meets Putin in Geneva
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets President Joe Biden during their summit meeting on Wednesday in Geneva. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images