It will be a summit with caution. The first face-to-face between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden, scheduled for June 16 in the Swiss city of Geneva, is already being compared to the 2018 Trump-Putin meeting, even before it occurred.
US President Joe Biden will give a solo press conference after the meeting. The joint press conference that followed the meeting between Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki is still sharp in the memory of the United States. It’s a bad memory.
The then-US leader caused outrage in his own country by stating that he accepted Putin’s word – over and above the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies – that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 US presidential campaign.
The White House has already advanced that Biden will mention the ‘ransomware’ attacks that allegedly emanate from Russia, in addition to Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine, the imprisonment of dissidents and other problems that have strained the relationship. From Washington they promise a “sincere and direct” meeting.
In a previous interview, Putin has said that relations between the United States and Russia are “at their lowest point in years.” As the Kremlin advanced, bilateral relations, as well as regional conflicts, strategic stability and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic will focus the summit of the two leaders.
The White House said in turn that the meeting would involve “a working session and a smaller session”, without giving more details. Biden’s team prefers a solo appearance so they can present disagreements clearly for what they are, but that doesn’t mean they are giving up on the relationship. Washington has insisted for weeks that its goal is to make relations between the two countries more “stable and predictable.”
If this is translated into concrete results, we could see a partial relaxation of restrictions on diplomatic staff quotas and the resumption of the dialogue on strategic stability between the United States Under-Secretary of State and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister. But while the United States prefers to restore stability, Russia aspires to prove its strength once again.
They saw each other in 2011, but not under the same charge
Putin and Biden have known each other since 2011, except that then the Pennsylvania one was vice president (2009-2017) under the Obama Administration.
The Kremlin chief described Trump as “a talented but impulsive individual” and said that Biden, as a career politician, is “radically different” from a much more “colorful” Trump. That closes Moscow some opportunities, although it guarantees some minimums. For example, in terms of nuclear arms control now the US disposition is greater. The problem is that both sides accuse each other of having violated previous treaties and that Biden receives pressure from Congress on how to deal with the war power of China and North Korea.
There are other spaces for agreement. Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia would be willing to hand over cybercriminals to the United States, if Washington did the same for Moscow and the two powers reached an agreement to that end.
The Russian president has openly admitted that in the 2016 vote he supported Trump. Biden is seen in Moscow as more ‘anti-Russian’. Perhaps that is why, at the beginning of an eight-day visit to Europe this week, Joe Biden declared “we are not seeking a conflict with Russia.” But the positions are distant.
“We want a stable and predictable relationship, but I have been clear: the United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities,” added the US leader, who is serving six months in office, while Putin He has led the nation for 21 years.
When reminded that Biden called him a “murderer” in an interview in March, Putin said he had heard dozens of such allegations. “This is not something that worries me in the least,” he said.
Putin will remain Putin. And President Biden cannot be very different from Vice President Biden. Although this summit, which will take place in the 18th-century Swiss village La Grange, offers an opportunity for the two countries to reduce tensions and facilitate cooperation between the White House and the Kremlin, a real rapprochement of a day for another.