Putin, deposed Afghanistan president among top gift-givers to Biden in 2021

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani were among the top gift-givers to President Joe Biden and his family in 2021, according to State Department documents published by the Federal Register on Thursday. 

The compilation lists “both tangible gifts and gifts of travel or travel expenses of more than minimal value” of $415.

While gift-giving is a well-established practice in international diplomacy, the report serves to underscore dramatic shifts in U.S. relations with certain foreign governments under the Biden administration amid developments that include the Afghanistan withdrawal, tensions with China, and the war in Ukraine. 

Putin gifted Biden with a $12,000 Kholuy lacquer writing box and pen set at a summit in Geneva, Switzerland in June of 2021. U.S.-Russian relations began deteriorating shortly thereafter and have since plummeted to Cold War levels with the advent of Putin’s war on Ukraine. Putin recently announced the suspension of the last remaining nuclear treaty between Russia and the U.S. 

Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani and his wife gifted President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden with a pair of silk carpets with a combined value of $28,800 in June of 2021. Two months later, Ghani fled Afghanistan in the wake of Biden’s ordered withdrawal of American troops from the country in what became a deadly debacle that claimed the lives of 13 U.S. service members and created a power vacuum that has since been filled by the Taliban, with devastating results.


While Chinese President Xi Jinping did not offer any gifts to President Biden in 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was presented with a $2,000 porcelain vase by Yang Jiechi, Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs of the Chinese Communist Party. Simmering tensions between Washington and Beijing over China’s aggression toward Taiwan have reached a near-boiling point in the wake of a downed Chinese spy balloon spotted hovering over U.S. airspace and China’s deepening ties with Russia. 

Each of the gifts, along with others made by foreign governments, was accepted on the basis that “Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government.”

Among the largesse were gifts from foreign leaders with whom President Biden maintains more amiable relations, including Queen Elizabeth’s present of a $2,200 silver-framed photo of herself, a large American flag from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy valued at $700, and a wristwatch and briefcase worth $2,052 from Mario Draghi, President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave Biden several items, valued at $536.20, among which were a pair of dog bowls.

One of the more unusual gifts came from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who presented President Biden with a hardcover edition of a book titled “The Bidens of India” valued at $455. The Washington Examiner posited that the book likely chronicles Biden’s ancestral ties to India, noting a 2020 Times of India report referencing claims made by then-Vice President Biden in 2013 and 2015 that he had distant familial ties to the country. Per the report, the Indian Bidens claimed to have been living in Maharashtra’s Nagpur city since 1873.