On Wednesday (June 16) US President Joe Biden will meet Russian President Putin in Geneva for their first summit which comes amid tensions over myriad issues including cyberattacks, Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats.
“There are difficulties everywhere; nothing is easy,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow on June 8.
Russia has “no illusions” about the prospects for major progress, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. “We don’t try to give the impression that there will be a breakthrough or historic momentous decisions.”
Although no breakthroughs are expected, experts hope the summit can help establish some boundaries in the relationship between the world’s biggest nuclear powers.
“Russia has reestablished itself as the most formidable power in Europe and it looks like Biden is acknowledging that and the fact that the U.S. can no longer afford to ignore Russia” says Stanford scholar Kathryn Stoner.
“An agreement to disagree on some issues, but to continue talking on others would be indicative of at least some small progress” Stoner added.
(The Villa La Grange with Lake Geneva in the background will be the setting for the first meeting between the US and Russian leaders since Joe Biden was elected president)
Putin, who has served as Russia’s preeminent leader since 1999 and has met with four US presidents since then, also keeps his expectations from the summit low.
“Let’s sit down together, talk, look for solutions, look for compromises that are acceptable to all parties – this is how stability is achieved. It cannot be achieved by imposing one point of view, the ‘correct’ point of view, all the rest are ‘wrong’,” he told NBC.
The White House confirmed there will be no post-summit news conference, with Biden and Putin standing side by side.
“This is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or who can embarrass one another,” Biden told reporters Sunday (June 13) in Cornwall, UK where he convened with the Group of 7 wealthiest democracies. “It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship.”
Biden has said at a British air force base, his first stop on a multi-leg European trip that culminates in Geneva that the United States is not seeking a conflict with Russia, but that Washington will respond in a robust way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities.
Moscow says the West is gripped by anti-Russian hysteria and that it will defend its interests in any way it see fit.
As Russian-American relations are at their lowest point since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the coming of the summit on June 16 between President Biden and President Putin should be at least welcomed.
Putin and Biden will meet in the afternoon to talk about the conditions and prospects for further fostering Russian-US relations, strategic stability, cybercrime, regulating regional conflicts and a variety of other issues.
The expanded bilateral meeting will begin at 14:55 local time according to the US president’s schedule released by the White House. Arms control is also expected to be one of the topics discussed by the two leaders, but the substance of these discussions “goes beyond the framewok of bilateral relations”, Peskov told Channel One Russia.
“Yes, the New START treaty was extended, there was a political decision of the Biden administration. This is a positive fact. But time is running out … and negotiations need to be started urgently. These will be difficult, very complex negotiations,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
According to Kremlin, the time for Putin and Biden talks will not be limited, as it’s quite difficult to put all the issues in 5 hours of negotiations.
The first meeting between the two leaders since Biden took office in January lasted for more than three hours, less time than was scheduled. Putin described the meeting as “very efficient.”
“It was substantive, it was specific. It was aimed at achieving results, and one of them was pushing back the frontiers of trust” Russia’s head of state said.
He also said it was “hard to say” if relations would improve, but that there was a “glimpse of hope”.
Biden called the discussions “positive” but told Putin “This is not a kumbaya moment.” “But it’s clearly not in anybody’s interest, your country’s or mine, for us to be in a situation where we’re in another Cold War.”
The two sides reached an important agreement to return each countries’ ambassador back to their posts. There will also be consultations between the US state department and the Russian foreign ministry on a range of issues including the Start III nuclear treaty, due to expire in 2024, and cybersecurity.
The two leaders spoke at separate news conferences after the summit ended.
Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Echo of Moscow on Thursday (June 17) that Biden and Putin did not have an “in-depth” conversation on either the situation in Belarus or the one in Ukraine but noted the “divergence of positions” on those two matters. He also said that “there can be no deadline” for a possible prisoner exchange between Russia and the US.
Peskov described the meeting as “rather with a plus sign.”
With reporting by Foreign Affairs, CNBC, Al Jazeera, Stanford News, TASS, The Guardian