It was Biden, after all, who called Mr. Putin “a killer.”
Killers usually do not seek the approval of rule followers.
So there is no reason to believe that Putin has been in any way chastened by this meeting.
Moreover, Biden’s promise that if Putin persists in his Putin ways, “we will respond,” probably does not change much, either.
And restoring full diplomatic relations, now promised, is probably not the right signal to send.
Realism really means that the life of one man — like dissident Alexei Navalny, who is now being slowly killed in a gulag — is not sufficient cause for a new cold war.
But what if the cold war is already on?
And what if Putin did not get, and does not plan on receiving and reading, the West’s memo about reason and reputation and good opinion?
The good opinion of the West, and cordiality with the United States, did not stop the Putin regime from poisoning dissidents, from jailing them or, yes, from killing them.
So, maybe the way to get the dictator’s attention, and to drive home the larger point about democracies having as much guts and staying power as autocracies, is to say: The consequences are now. We are not giving you another chance. Free Navalny and free Calvey now. And then we will trade robustly with you and send a new U.S. ambassador.