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President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet next month in Geneva, Switzerland, the White House confirmed Tuesday.
Biden and Putin will hold talks on June 16 — after Biden makes stops in England for the annual G7 summit and in Belgium for a NATO conference.
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.-Russia relationship.”
The meeting during Biden’s first trip abroad as president follows a rocky period for US-Russia relations punctuated by the hack this month of the Colonial Pipeline by cybercriminals suspected of residing in Russia. The hack caused gas stations to run dry throughout the southeastern US.
Biden in April offered Putin a summer summit during a phone call in which he informed him of US plans to expel diplomats and apply new sanctions as punishment for the SolarWinds hack and alleged Russian meddling in the 2020 election.
Biden’s summit with the former KGB agent carries significant political risk for him. If there are public remarks, he risks looking overly accommodating of the Russian strongman or embarrassing himself with gaffes.
As a presidential candidate last year, Biden repeatedly attacked then-President Donald Trump for not punishing Putin over unconfirmed intelligence that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan. But Biden has been quiet on the issue since US spy agencies concluded in April they don’t have high confidence in the claim.
And Biden appeared to blink in April on a decision to send warships to the Black Sea in response to a Russian troop buildup on the borders of Ukraine. The Pentagon ordered a U-turn by two US destroyers following Russian warnings.
Biden and Putin also traded personal insults this year — adding to potential headlines out of the summit.
Biden said in an ABC News interview in March that he regarded Putin as a “killer” and claimed he once told the Russian leader to his face, “I don’t think you have a soul.”
“I said [to Putin], ‘I looked through your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul,’” Biden told ABC News. Putin allegedly looked back and replied, “We understand each other.”
Putin responded to Biden’s “killer” jab by saying, “it takes one to know one,” before inviting Biden to a livestreamed debate.
The summit will closely follow Putin’s ally, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, forcing down a commercial passenger jet to detain a dissident journalist. The Obama-Biden administration similarly forced down a jet over Europe in 2013 that was carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales in an unsuccessful attempt to imprison mass surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.
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