United States President Joe Biden landed in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday ahead of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden is arriving after a series of intense meetings with international allies from the G7, NATO and the European Union.
Biden has sought to reassure allies shunned by his predecessor, Donald Trump, that the US is indeed a strong and reliable partner. Part of this has been a concerted US effort to confer with allies about concerns over Russia before Biden’s meeting with Putin on Wednesday.
Biden consults allies on Russia
Heading into the summit, Biden has pointed to the backing of his western partners.
Among other things, the US and EU agreed to set up “high-level dialogue” on Russia as part of “a renewed trans-Atlantic partnership” between the US and the 27-member bloc.
At the NATO summit in Brussels on Monday, experts warned that Russian troop buildups at the edge of eastern Europe; “increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability along NATO borders and beyond.”
Biden said, “I’m not looking for conflict with Russia, but … we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities.”
Establishing ‘red lines’ to keep relations within bounds
Expectations are low for the two leaders’ sit-down; the first since Biden took office in January. Both sides say their aim is to establish more stable and predictable bilateral relations at a time when they are anything but.
When asked if he was ready for his meeting with Putin, an upbeat Biden said with a smile; “I’m always ready.” Still, a senior Biden official told reporters aboard Air Force One on condition of anonymity that the team was “not expecting a big set of deliverables.”
“There will be no breaking of bread,” the official said.
However, the official added that the US hopes to establish “red lines” to prevent the frayed relationship between the US and Russia from further deteriorating.
What do we know about the summit?
Biden and Putin are expected to meet for several hours on Wednesday at La Grange, an elegant villa complex in Geneva; — the setting is reminiscent of the 1985 Cold War summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at the villa Fleur d’Eau.
This time, however, tensions are coming less from strategic nuclear arsenals or the struggle of competing ideologies.
Rather, the Biden administration sees today’s Russia as an increasingly rogue, authoritarian state.
Officials from both sides say Biden and Putin will initially meet alone; with only translators and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov present.
Afterwards, meetings will change to an expanded format, with five officials accompanying each president.
Talks are scheduled to begin around 1:00 p.m. (1100 UTC) and last as long as five hours.
Unlike the 2018 Helsinki summit between Putin and Donald Trump, there will be no joint press conference.