Biden-Putin summit to take place in Geneva on June 16
First meeting of its kind between Moscow and Washington since 2018
US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet for their first summit in Switzerland on June 16, the White House announced on Tuesday.
“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 presidential summit will be the first such meeting between Washington and Moscow since 2018, with accusations of election meddling and cyber attacks further straining the tense relationship between the former Cold War adversaries.
The summit will come at the end of Mr Biden’s first trip abroad in early June, in which he will participate in the G7 and Nato summits in the UK and Belgium respectively.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has had a major role in planning the meeting.
At the weekend, Mr Sullivan held talks with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev in Geneva to prepare for the meeting.
“The discussions were held in a constructive manner and, despite outstanding differences, allowed for a better understanding of each other’s positions,” the White House said.
The two sides “agreed that a normalisation of US-Russian relations would be in the interest of both countries and contribute to global predictability and stability".
The meeting will come almost three years after former president Donald Trump famously sided with Mr Putin over US intelligence agencies on the question of whether Moscow had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.
Mr Biden has taken a tougher line on Moscow since taking office in January, with his administration last month slapping sanctions on 32 Russian people and entities for alleged election interference, cyber attacks and the jailing of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.
The White House also expelled 10 Russian diplomats and the Kremlin reciprocated with similar measures. Russia also recalled its ambassador to the US for the first time in more than 20 years.
But the two global powers have also found room for co-operation in areas such as renewing the New START nuclear weapons reduction treaty, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and conflict stabilisation in Libya and Syria.
The Biden administration has also shied away from imposing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project as it seeks to improve ties with Germany.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken's decision to waive the Nord Stream 2 sanctions last week was met with overt Republican condemnation and thinly veiled Democratic criticism on Capitol Hill.
"I'm wondering if [Mr Biden] is going to arrive with a birthday cake to accompany the multibillion-dollar present that Biden just gave Putin waiving the sanctions on Nord Stream 2," Republican Ted Cruz of Texas told The National.
Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called upon Mr Biden to scale up the Russia sanctions he implemented last month.
"I hope the president goes in there and speaks from a position of strength, makes it very clear to Putin -- as he did with his sanctions but has to build upon that -- that the malign activities of Russia can't stand," Mr Menendez told The National. "Putin only understands strength at the end of the day."
Democrat Gregory Meeks of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that "waivers can always be revoked" in a statement last week.
Despite the decision to waive sanctions, State Department spokesman Ned Price noted that Mr Blinken had "reiterated US concerns about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline" during a phone call with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday.
Updated: May 27, 2021 02:40 AM