President Joe Biden will meet President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, for a summit on June 16 – where he plans to raise sensitive issues including the ‘territorial integrity’ of Ukraine.
The White House announced on Tuesday that Biden and his Russian counterpart will hold talks after the G7 summit in the UK and talks with NATO and the European Union in Brussels.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the leaders will discuss the ‘full range of pressing issues as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S. relationship’ – before rattling off a few of the fraught topics that will come up.
On Ukraine – where Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and recently massed troops on the border only to pull back many of them – Psaki said Biden will underscore ‘America’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.’
President Joe Biden will meet President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, for a summit on June 16
She said he would also raise the situation in Belarus ‘and convey our grave concerns as he has not done publicly,’ after the Moscow-aligned government of Lukashenko deployed a MiG-29 to force a Ryanair en route to Lithuania to land so it could arrest 26-year old journalist Roman Protasevich.
Psaki also brought up the P5+1 Iran nuclear talks, which already include Russia, nuclear arms control, and a ‘range of issues’ that could be discussed.
She rejected claims the U.S. was rewarding Putin with the summit. ‘This is how diplomacy works. We don’t meet with people only when we agree. It’s actually important to meet with leaders when we have a range of disagreements, as we do with the Russian leader.
‘We don’t regard the meeting with the Russian president as a reward,’ she said. She also said when asked there were no preconditions for the meeting.
On Ukraine, Psaki said Biden would convey that ‘Ukraine is a sovereign country,’ that ‘we respect that, and we are closely coordinated with them. We support them in their efforts to protect their people and protect their borders.’
She did not respond directly when asked if he would bring up the Colonial Pipeline hack, which disrupted gas supplies across the South and East Coast earlier this month. The White House said the hack came from Russia but have not accused the Russian government of involvement.
‘Certainly cyber has been a topic of discussion between the president and President Putin,’ said Psaki.
The White House for weeks has refused to confirm the details of a potential summit meeting the two leaders discussed in a phone call.
The meeting will follow Biden’s planned trip to the United Kingdom for the annual meeting of G7 nations – a group that once included Russia, as well as a trip to Brussels to meet with NATO allies.
Biden will also meet with top European Union officials on June 15th, Psaki said.
The administration has touted the summit as an opportunity to attempt to normalize relations with Russia, after a series of Russian ‘malign’ activities that run counter to U.S. interests.
Biden sparkws an uproar in March when he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Putin was a ‘killer.’ The move infuriated Russia, and Putin responded by wishing him ‘good health’
Among the top areas the administration has identified are Russian election interference in 2016 and 2020, Russia’s posture toward Ukraine following the 2014 invasion of Crimea, and Russia’s imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The U.S. has repeatedly slapped sanctions on Russia in an effort to counter its activities. Russia has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and blamed the West for the poor state of relations.
Biden’s one-on-one with Putin follows a series of summit meetings between Putin and former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly called for better relations with Moscow.
Biden, a former vice president and former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has met Putin previously.
He helped spark an uproar in March when he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Putin was a ‘killer.’
The move infuriated Russia, and Putin responded by wishing him ‘good health.’
Putin responded with a variation of ‘sticks and stones.’
‘When I was a child, when we argued in the courtyard, we said the following: ‘If you call someone names, that’s really your name,:’ he said. ‘When we characterize other people, or even when we characterize other states, other people, it is always as though we are looking in the mirror.’
The ABC host had asked Biden if he thought Putin was a killer. ‘Mmm hmm, I do,’ he responded.
News of the date and location of a meeting prompted a reaction from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who linked the meeting to the U.S. sanctioning vessels – but waived sanctions on the company backing it – of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
‘An enterprising reporter should ask The White House if pumping the brakes on Nord Stream 2 sanctions was a precondition for this meeting,’ Cruz wrote.
The White House has said the project is nearly completed anyway – although some of Russia’s western neighbors fear the pipeline will make them vulnerable to pressure if Russia decides to cut off their supply of gas. The pipeline would ship gas from Russia directly to Germany.
A Kremlin statement indicates that the two sides are approaching with different agenda items. It said the leaders would discuss bilateral ties, problems related to strategic nuclear stability, regional conflicts, and COVID-19, Reuters reported.