President Biden set for Geneva showdown with Vladimir Putin after European tour of allies

President Joe Biden is set for his first face-to-face meeting as president with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland, following a week-long European tour in which Biden reaffirmed U.S. alliances and reiterated his message that “America is back” on the world stage. 

Biden’s first international trip as president culminates with highly anticipated talks with Putin that are expected to last about four to five hours, a senior administration official told reporters aboard Air Force One.  The two foreign leaders will first meet with Swiss President Guy Parmelin before a pair of meetings that are expected to focus on nuclear arms, cyber attacks and human rights, the official told reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the summit. 

Biden has sought to tamp down expectations about the high stakes meeting but earlier this week told reporters he planned to take a tough line on issues including a recent string of cyber attacks and Russian aggression in Ukraine but also find areas of mutual interest where they could cooperate. 

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The president is “not expecting a big set of deliverables out of this meeting,” the administration official said.

“I have met with him. He’s bright, he’s tough and I have found that he is a, as they say when we used to play ball, a worthy adversary,” Biden told reporters of Putin at a news conference Monday night. 

Putin has met five U.S. presidents since coming to power in 1999. The summit with Biden is being held at Villa La Grange, which overlooks Lake Geneva. 

The U.S. president spent the days in the lead-up to the summit meeting with dozens of foreign leaders at the Group of 7 and NATO meetings in Britain and Brussels, Belgium, as he sought to restore transatlantic diplomatic ties unwound by his predecessor’s nationalist policies. 

He told reporters his foreign counterparts appreciated he chose to meet with Putin so quickly despite criticism of his timing of the summit. 

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“Every world leader here as a member of NATO that spoke today, and most of them mentioned it, thanked me for meeting with Putin now,” he said. “And they thought it was thoroughly appropriate that I do, and I had discussions with them in the open about what they thought was important from their perspective.”

Biden’s meeting is expected to mark a stark contrast to Putin’s last meeting with an American president. Former President Donald Trump stirred controversy when he defended Russia against allegations of 2016 election interference at their meeting in Helsinki in July 2019. Unlike that meeting, Putin and Biden plan to hold separate press conferences following talks. 

Ahead of the talks, Putin’s official spokesman Dmitry Peskov cautioned that the diplomatic meeting was not likely to produce any breakthroughs.

“We have many long-neglected questions that need to be trawled through. That’s why President Putin is arriving with an attitude to frankly and constructively set questions and try to find solutions,” Peskov said. “However, the fact that the two presidents agreed to meet and finally start to speak openly about the problems is already an achievement. 

On the last day of G-7 President Biden said the summit was "extraordinarily collaborative and productive."


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