President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met at a lakeside Geneva house for their first encounter since Biden entered office, with profound disputes inevitable and low expectations of resolving them. Even if they disagree on everything from arms control to cyber-hacking to election involvement and Ukraine, both have stated that they expect their talks would lead to more stable and predictable relations.
Before entering, Putin and Biden exchanged handshakes.
“I’d like to thank you for your effort to meet today, Mr. President,” Putin said, sitting next to Biden, adding, “U.S.-Russian ties have a lot of challenges that demand the highest level meeting.”
Biden stated that they will strive to identify areas of common interest and cooperation. “It’s always preferable to meet in person.”
Aides had already dismissed the summit’s chances.
“We’re not expecting a large number of deliverables from this meeting,” a senior US source told reporters, adding that the leaders were slated to speak for four or five hours.
Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, stated, “I’m not convinced any deals will be made.”
Relations have been deteriorating for years, particularly since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 engagement in Syria, and US accusations of interfering in the 2016 election, which propelled Donald Trump to the White House despite Moscow’s denials.
They plummeted even lower in March when Biden declared Putin a “killer,” causing Russia to summon its envoy to Washington for discussions. In April, the United States recalled its ambassador.
The US was looking at “areas where working together might promote our national interests and make the globe safer,” according to a senior US official.
According to Russian news outlets, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated the two presidents would “need to determine how to continue with the chiefs of foreign missions.”
While the challenges may be troublesome, the immediate surroundings of Villa La Grange, a beautiful estate nestled in a 30-hectare (75-acre) park overlooking Lake Geneva, will be tranquil.
The summit perimeter was heavily patrolled by police.
Following the bilateral encounter, Biden and Putin were expected to conduct conversations with their respective bigger delegations, which included US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as well as interpreters.
Despite larger disputes, progress in arms control has historically been feasible.
In February, Russia and the United States agreed to extend the New START Treaty for another five years, limiting the number of strategic nuclear warheads they can deploy and the missiles and bombers they may use to deliver them.
Biden will also designate areas of essential national interest where Russian malfeasance will result in retaliation, according to a senior US official. In April, Biden signed an executive order granting Washington broad authority to impose penalties on Russia.
The talks will not involve any meals, indicating a strained relationship, and Putin and Biden are scheduled to have separate news conferences rather than a joint one.
“There will be no breaking of bread,” the senior US official stated.
Putin, according to Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian ambassador, wants Russia to be treated with respect, similar to how members of the Soviet Politburo were handled in the 1960s and 1980s, with “a symbolic recognition of Russia’s geopolitical parity with the United States.”
“They (Moscow) would be willing to ease back on some of the craziness in exchange,” Frolov remarked. This may mean “no poisonings, no physical assaults, no arrests/kidnappings of Americans and Russians; no meddling in domestic politics.”
The Carnegie Moscow Center’s director, Dmitri Trenin, set a low standard for Wednesday’s lectures.
“The main positive takeaway from the Geneva meeting would be ensuring that the United States and Russia did not come to blows physically, preventing a military collision,” he said.
In contrast to Trump’s 2018 Helsinki summit with Putin, which featured a meeting with only interpreters, Biden and Putin are not scheduled to meet alone.
Trump declined to accuse Putin of meddling in the 2016 US election while standing alongside him in Helsinki, casting doubt on his own intelligence agencies’ findings and igniting a firestorm of domestic criticism.