Biden, Putin Ready For Summit 06/16 06:06
U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin sit down Wednesday for
their highly anticipated summit in the Swiss city of Geneva, a moment of
high-stakes diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that relations between
their countries are at an all-time low.
GENEVA (AP) -- U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin sit down
Wednesday for their highly anticipated summit in the Swiss city of Geneva, a
moment of high-stakes diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that
relations between their countries are at an all-time low.
For four months, the two leaders have traded sharp rhetoric. Biden
repeatedly called out Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers
on U.S. interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Russia's
foremost opposition leader and interference in American elections.
Putin, for his part, has reacted with whatabout-isms and obfuscations --
pointing to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to argue that the U.S.
has no business lecturing on democratic norms and insisting that the Russian
government hasn't been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks
despite U.S. intelligence showing otherwise.
Now, the pair will meet for their first face-to-face as leaders -- a
conversation that is expected to last four to five hours. In advance, both
sides set out to lower expectations.
Even so, Biden has said it would be an important step if the United States
and Russia were able to ultimately find "stability and predictability" in their
relationship, a seemingly modest goal from the president for dealing with the
person he sees as one of America's fiercest adversaries.
"We should decide where it's in our mutual interest, in the interest of the
world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that," Biden told reporters earlier
this week. "And the areas where we don't agree, make it clear what the red
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told The Associated Press on Wednesday
that no breakthroughs were expected and that "the situation is too difficult in
"However, the fact that the two presidents agreed to meet and finally start
to speak openly about the problems is already an achievement," Peskov said
several hours before the summit's scheduled start time.
Arrangements for the meeting have been carefully choreographed and
vigorously negotiated by both sides.
Biden first floated the meeting in an April phone call in which he informed
Putin that he would be expelling several Russian diplomats and imposing
sanctions against dozens of people and companies, part of an effort to hold the
Kremlin accountable for interference in last year's presidential election and
the hacking of federal agencies.
Putin and his entourage will arrive first at the summit site: Villa La
Grange, a grand lakeside mansion set in Geneva's biggest park. Next come Biden
and his team. Swiss President Guy Parmelin will greet the two leaders. Putin
landed in Geneva on Wednesday shortly before the scheduled start of the
meeting; Biden -- who was in Europe for a week of meeting with allies --
arrived the day before.
The three will spend a moment together in front of the cameras, but only
Parmelin is expected to make remarks, according to a senior administration
official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
Biden and Putin first will hold a relatively intimate meeting joined by U.S.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Each side will have a translator.
The meeting will then expand to include five senior aides on each side.
After the meeting concludes, Putin is scheduled to hold a solo news
conference, with Biden following suit. The White House opted against a joint
news conference, deciding it did not want to appear to elevate Putin at a
moment when the president is urging European allies to pressure Putin to cut
out myriad provocations.
Biden sees himself with few peers on foreign policy. He traveled the globe
as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was given difficult
foreign policy assignments by President Barack Obama when Biden was vice
president. His portfolio included messy spots like Iraq and Ukraine and
weighing the mettle of China's Xi Jinping during his rise to power.
He has repeatedly said that he believes executing effective foreign policy
comes from forming strong personal relations, and he has managed to find
rapport with both the likes of Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom Biden has
labeled an "autocrat," and conventional politicians like Canada's Justin
But with Putin, whom the president has "no soul," Biden has long been wary.
At the same time, he acknowledges that Putin, who remained the most powerful
figure in Russian politics over the span of five U.S. presidents, is not
without talent. Biden this week suggested that he is approaching his meeting
with Putin carefully.
"He's bright. He's tough," Biden said. "And I have found that he is a -- as
they say...a worthy adversary."
The White House held on to hope of finding small areas of agreement.
No commitments have been made, but according to the senior administration
official, there are hopes that both sides will return their ambassadors to
their respective postings following the meeting. Russia's ambassador to the
U.S., Anatoly Antonov, was recalled from Washington about three months ago
after Biden called Putin a killer; U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan left
Moscow almost two months ago, after Russia suggested he return to Washington
Both ambassadors will be in Geneva during Wednesday's meeting.
Biden administration officials say they think common ground can be found on
arms control. International arms control groups are pressing the Russian and
American leaders to start a push for new arms control by holding "strategic
stability" talks -- a series of government-to-government discussions meant to
sort through the many areas of disagreement and tension on the national
The Biden team will press its concerns on cybersecurity. In recent months,
Russia-based hackers have launched alarming attacks on a major U.S. oil
pipeline and a Brazil-headquartered meat supplier that operates in the U.S.
The Russian side has said that the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader
Alexei Navalny is an internal political matter and one area where Putin won't
engage Biden. But the senior Biden administration official said there "is no
issue that is off the table for the president," suggesting Navalny will come up.
The meeting is sure to invite comparisons with President Donald Trump's 2018
meeting with Putin in Helsinki, where the two leaders held a joint news
conference and Trump sided with Russian denials when asked whether Moscow had
meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
Biden has prepared for his one-on-one by reviewing materials and consulting
with officials across government and with outside advisers. Aides said the
level of preparation wasn't unusual. Biden, in a brief exchange with reporters
upon a rriving in Geneva on Tuesday night, sought to offer the impression that
he wasn't sweating his big meeting.
"I am always ready," Biden said.