Biden, Putin to hold first summit in Geneva despite low hopes of breakthrough
Published: May 26, 2021 05:53 PM
Combo photo of U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.(Photo: Xinhua)

Combo photo of U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.(Photo: Xinhua)

US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will hold their first summit in June in Geneva, both sides said Tuesday, though no breakthrough is expected in the fraught relationship.

The meeting in the wealthy Swiss city - home to many UN organizations and location of a historic 1985 summit between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US president Ronald Reagan - will be on June 16.

"The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

The Kremlin confirmed the summit details and said in a statement that Putin and Biden would be discussing "issues of strategic stability," as well as "resolving regional conflicts" and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden, making his first international trip as president, will go to Geneva immediately after separate summits with his key Western allies in the G7, NATO and the European Union.

The face-to-face meeting with the Kremlin leader comes amid levels of tension not seen for years, with Washington now dialing back its ambitions to little more than establishing a relationship in which both sides understand each other and can work together in specific areas.

Unlike in 2009, when Biden was vice president and then president Barack Obama's administration declared a diplomatic "reset" with Putin's government, expectations going into the summit this time are far lower.

A high-profile encounter will suit Putin at a time when he faces a largely hostile West, but Biden's decision to meet should not be taken as a mark of approval, say White House officials.

The Geneva summit will come almost three years after Trump famously sided with the Kremlin leader over the US intelligence agencies on the question of whether Moscow interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

However, both sides are working to calm the waters ahead of the Geneva summit, with the White House emphasizing hopes for working alongside Russia on well-defined strategic issues like nuclear weapons control and the Iran nuclear negotiations.