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Tags: Biden Administration | Russia | biden | putin | talks

Biden Plans to 'Warn' Putin in Talks That May Last 5 Hours

Biden Plans to 'Warn' Putin in Talks That May Last 5 Hours

Tuesday, 15 June 2021 12:06 PM

President Joe Biden plans to warn Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. will respond to actions that conflict with its national interests during a meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday in Geneva, according to White House officials.

The White House expects the meeting to last four to five hours, but doesn’t anticipate any concrete policy announcements to come from it, the officials said. Biden instead wants to use his first sit-down with the Russian leader to lay out the circumstances in which U.S. will retaliate against Russia and also find areas to cooperate.

“I’m always ready,” Biden said Tuesday when asked by reporters during a meeting with the Swiss president if he’s prepared to meet Putin.

Biden and Putin are expected to discuss a renewal of the New START nuclear arms pact that is set to expire in 2026, according to the officials. The U.S. president also believes human rights and Putin’s crackdown on jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s political movement are on the table. The two leaders aren’t planning to share a meal.

Ahead of the meeting, Biden will dine this evening in Geneva with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The officials, who spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Geneva, said Blinken and Putin’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will join the leaders for part of the meeting. Biden and Putin will appear in front of the media before gathering with a larger group of aides.

U.S. officials expected to join the meeting include: Jake Sullivan; Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland; U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan; as well as National Security Council Russia advisers Eric Green and Stergos Kaloudis.

Putin will hold his post-meeting news conference first and Biden will follow with his own solo news conference, the officials said.

Biden consulted with U.S. allies ahead of the meeting last week at the Group of Seven summit meeting in the United Kingdom and this week at NATO and EU summits in Brussels. He also spoke with outside policy experts as part of his preparation.

Biden landed Tuesday in Geneva on the eve of his first summit with Putin, a meeting the White House hopes will set clear "red lines" preventing the combustible US-Russia relationship from further deterioration.

"I'm always ready," Biden told reporters with a smile, when asked if he was prepared for the tense encounter.

Biden and Putin will huddle for hours on Wednesday at an elegant villa complex in Geneva, a setting reminiscent of the Cold War Reagan-Gorbachev summit in the Swiss city in 1985.

Illustrating the frostiness of the session, the two leaders will not be sharing any kind of meal.

"There will be no breaking of bread," a senior US official said aboard Air Force One, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One of the few things both sides can agree on is that Russian-US relations are at about their lowest ebb since the distant days of the US-Soviet superpower standoff.

This time, tensions are less about strategic nuclear weapons and competing ideologies than what the Biden administration sees as an increasingly rogue, authoritarian Russian state.

From cyber attacks on US entities and meddling in the last two US presidential elections, to human rights violations and aggression against Ukraine and other European countries, the US list of allegations against the Kremlin runs long.

Putin, in an interview with NBC ahead of the summit, scoffed at US accusations.

As well as denying any connection to what the US says are Russia-based hacking and ransomware gangs, Putin rejected having any hand in the deaths of many of his opponents during two decades in power.

Addressing one of the main irritants in relations with Washington and the European Union, Putin insisted he also could not be blamed for the near-fatal poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of one of the few remaining Russian opposition figures, Alexei Navalny.

Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign affairs adviser, told journalists in Moscow that the US-Russian relationship is "at an impasse" and "close to critical".

However, he said there were some grounds for optimism, albeit "not much".

Biden's team is equally downplaying chances of major change. Success, says the White House, would be just managing to lower the temperature and adopt a "predictable, stable" relationship.

The US side is "not expecting a big set of deliverables", the senior Biden official said.

- Backed by allies -

Biden -- flying into Geneva from Brussels after back-to-back summits with the EU, NATO and the G7 group of allies -- said he wants to establish clear "red lines" for what the White House will no longer tolerate.

"I'm not looking for conflict with Russia, but... we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities," Biden said after his NATO meeting on Monday.

In something of a pivot from his previous acknowledgement that he considers Putin to be a "killer", Biden upgraded the Russian leader to a "tough" and "worthy adversary".

Going into the summit, Biden has emphasised that he has the backing of his Western partners.

Russia was one of the top topics at the NATO summit in Brussels, where the military alliance warned that Russian military build-ups on the edge of eastern Europe "increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability along NATO borders and beyond".

For all the bruising rhetoric, the White House is keen to emphasise that it wants to do business in a limited way with Russia. Officials point to the recent extension of the New START nuclear arms limitation treaty as an example of successful diplomacy.

According to Ushakov, one possible baby step might be a quick reinstatement of the two countries' ambassadors, who returned home this year in response to tensions.

Officials from the two sides say the leaders will initially meet with only translators and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

They will then switch to a larger format, with five officials accompanying each leader.

However, unlike in 2018, when President Donald Trump met Putin, there will be no joint press conference.

The US side is clearly anxious to avoid the optics of having Biden sharing that kind of platform with the Kremlin leader, who will be accompanied by an all but uniformly loyal media entourage.

In 2018, Trump caused a stir by saying alongside Putin that he believed the Kremlin leader over his own intelligence services when it came to accusations of Russian interference in the US election.

Switzerland is running a massive security operation during the summit, with around 4,000 personnel deployed, while La Grange villa and its surrounding park have been fenced off.

Material from Agence France-Presse was also used in this story.

© Copyright 2021 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

President Joe Biden plans to warn Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. will respond to actions that conflict with its national interests during a meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday in Geneva, according to White House officials.The White House expects the...
biden, putin, talks
Tuesday, 15 June 2021 12:06 PM
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