Biden to meet Putin in Geneva on June 16 for first summit

May 25, 2021, 3:05 PM UTC

President Joe Biden will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16, the first summit between the two leaders since the American president took office.

“The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday.

A statement from the Kremlin said that the two leaders will “discuss the current status and prospects of Russian-American relations, issues of strategic stability, as well as issues on the international agenda, including cooperation to fight the coronavirus pandemic and resolve regional conflicts.”

The meeting will follow Biden’s participation in G-7 and NATO summits in the U.K. and Brussels.

Relations between the U.S. and Russia are poor due to Putin’s aggression toward neighboring countries and his treatment of political opponents, as well as American financial sanctions against his government and associates.

Both leaders have signaled an interest in negotiating a new nuclear arms reduction pact, however.

Earlier Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hailed what he called Biden administration officials’ “respectful” tone in talks finalizing the meeting over the last week. “This allows us to hope that through starting a serious, concrete dialog on practical, not invented issues and common threat and risks, we can count on clearing away some irritants (if both sides make an effort). It won’t be fast and it won’t be easy.”

The summit is a diplomatic win for Putin as it reflects an acknowledgment by Biden that he has to deal with him, said Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, which advises the Kremlin.

“For Moscow, ties with the U.S. have always been the top priority,” Lukyanov said by phone. “Biden is returning to the traditional approach recognizing Russia’s importance in key areas after the insult of being effectively ignored under Trump.”

While the meeting won’t likely repair the fraught relationship between the rival nations, it should succeed in bringing their confrontation into a “managed phase after a period of anarchy in recent years,” he said.

Belarus flight

Since Biden took office, he’s imposed additional sanctions on Russia in response to the poisoning and detention of Putin opponent Alexey Navalny. He’s poised to soon sanction Belarus, whose leader Alexander Lukashenko is close to Putin, after Lukashenko’s regime forced a Ryanair Holdings Plc flight to land in Minsk on Sunday in order to arrest a political dissident aboard the plane.

The Putin-Biden meeting will be the first summit between American and Russian leaders since July 2018, when Donald Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki ended with a widely criticized joint press conference in which the U.S. president criticized his own intelligence agencies and said he believed Putin’s assertion that he didn’t interfere in the 2016 election. Trump’s top spy chief at the time, Director of Intelligence Dan Coats, was so incensed by the statements that issued a defense of the intelligence community on his flight back from the summit.

—With assistance from Gregory L. White.

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