On May 24, the White House and the Kremlin announced that U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a summit in Geneva, Switzerland on June 16. The meeting between the two leaders will be the first one since Biden was inaugurated in January. The purpose of the summit is to discuss stability between the two countries, in order to build a long-lasting and peaceful relationship.
According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the two leaders will “discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship.” Patski also mentioned that Biden will bring up Belarus’ forced landing of a commercial airliner, as well as the following incarceration of an opposition activist.
In a declaration made by the Kremlin, they stated that Biden and Putin will negotiate on mutual ties, issues linked to tactical nuclear stability and territorial conflicts, and other matters such as establishing cooperation in the battle against Covid-19. According to Reuters, Russian officials stated that they have received mixed signals from the U.S. Administration regarding the future relationship between the United States and Russia and that the summit will give them the opportunity to hear directly from Biden instead.
The White House has announced that they will take a rather different approach than former President Donald Trump. Moreover, President Biden criticized Putin and the Russian government for interfering with last year’s U.S. presidential election, alleging that the Kremlin executed a cyberhacking campaign on technology companies such as SolarWinds and Microsoft. The charge accuses Russian hackers of spreading hostile messages through code amongst broadly-used software, which gave them access to at least nine U.S. agencies. According to AlJazeera, Biden stated that “I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions – interfering with our election, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens – are over.”
In March, the Biden Administration declared sanctions against several Russian officials, as well as firms and businesses in response to the recent arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Navalny, an anti-corruption activist, was poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok in August 2020 and accused Putin of orchestrating the attack. Additionally, in April, the Biden Administration responded to the SolarWinds hack and election interference by expelling several Russian diplomats and putting sanctions on Russian companies.
Although expectations are low, the White House has expressed the desire for a stable and predictable relationship with Russia. Recently, Biden announced that he is resisting tougher action in order to communicate to Putin that the United States is hopeful of a respectful relationship in which both parties play the rules of the game.
However, recent comments from Biden have caused confusion within the Russian government. In an interview given to ABC News in March, Biden was asked by interviewer George Stephanopoulos if he thought Putin was “a killer”. Biden responded “I remember, in my childhood, when we argued in the courtyard, we used to say, it takes one to know one,” and added that “We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are. And, as a result, we assess [a person’s] activities and give assessments.” According to Kremlin representative Dmitry Peskov, Biden’s statement suggested that he is uninterested in an improved relationship with Russia and that the current situation between the two countries is “very bad”.
In order for there to be a stable relationship between the United States and Russia, the two leaders must establish a mutual agreement and agree to respect rules of the game. Nonetheless, the summit may give them the opportunity to discuss diplomatic solutions to disagreements and to build a stronger path for the future.
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