Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks to NBC News journalist Keir Simmons in Moscow on June 11, 2021 during an exclusive interview prior to a meeting with the US President.
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One of the most anticipated political events of the year begins when Russian President Vladimir Putin travels to Geneva on Wednesday morning for his summit meeting with US President Joe Biden.
The summit will take place at Villa La Grange in the capital of Switzerland (chosen as the location for the summit due to its history of political neutrality) and is expected to last up to five hours.
The summit will include an initial meeting between the presidents and their closest officials, followed by talks between the larger Russian and US delegations, followed by separate press conferences with the two heads of state or government.
Putin is expected to arrive at the venue first around noon UK time, senior White House officials said Tuesday, followed by Biden, both leaders being greeted by Swiss President Guy Parmelin.
A distant view of Villa La Grange, which will host the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden on June 16 as part of the US-Russia summit.
Mikhail Metzel | TASS | Getty Images
The summit will begin with an initial meeting between Biden and Putin, accompanied by Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as well as translators, White House officials noted.
After this first meeting, a larger delegation will meet for several sessions before both Heads of State and Government hold separate press conferences; Putin is expected to give the first media update, followed by Biden. There is no time for a meal during the summit, but breaks are expected for the top performers.
The Putin-Biden summit is being watched closely around the world as US-Russia relations remain tense after a series of geopolitical clashes and international sanctions in recent years.
US President Joe Biden leaves Airforce One after arriving in Geneva, the day before the US-Russia summit.
Swimming pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 resulted in Russia being suspended from what was then the Group of Eight and introduced international sanctions. Since then, Russia has been accused of meddling in the US election in 2016, two attacks on neurotoxins (in the UK in 2018 and allegedly on Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader and Putin critic in 2020), as well as involvement in cyber attacks and human rights abuses.
Russia has always denied the multiple allegations, stating that it was a victim of anti-Russian sentiment in the West.
The summit follows a flurry of American diplomacy with its allies in Europe and beyond. Biden visited the UK last weekend for the Group of Seven summit, then on Monday for a NATO summit in Brussels and on Tuesday for an EU-US summit, which gave the US chief food for thought for his meeting with Putin.
The agenda of the presidential meeting is likely to include “strategic stability”, climate change, and nuclear stability and cybersecurity, and possibly a number of other topics, including the fate of Navalny, Ukraine, Belarus and the prospects for Russian and US citizens incarcerated in the countries of the other.
No “large amount of services”
On Tuesday, a senior White House official said the Biden administration was not expecting great results from this meeting, but rather three basic things.
“First, a clear set of tasks in areas where working together can advance our national interest and make the world a safer place. Second, a clear definition of the areas of America’s vital national interests in which Russian activities that run counter to those interests will be fulfilled “with an answer,” he said.
“And third, a clear statement of the president’s vision for American values and our national priorities,” he said. The official added that “nothing is off the table for the American President” on the subjects of the talks with Putin.
In view of the contrary nature of the relations between the USA and Russia in recent years, analysts see little chance of “breakthrough moments” at the Geneva summit.
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People fly the Russian and American flags on a bridge in the city center ahead of a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 15, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Nonetheless, the meeting is seen as an opportunity to calm relations and bring much-needed stability to affairs.
“This is an attempt to stabilize the situation,” Ian Bond, director of foreign policy at the Center for European Reform, told CNBC on Wednesday. “The American slogan was that they wanted predictability and stability in the relationship, and it’s on a downward spiral. Things just got worse.”
Still, Bond didn’t believe there would be a return to “business as usual” as Putin was unlikely to change, especially given domestic political pressures from the Covid crisis and its impact on the Russian economy and standard of living.
“It makes sense for him (Putin) to try to throw his opponents off balance and to guess what his next move will be,” noted Bond. “Americans will try to put more framework into this relationship, but I’m not sure they will necessarily succeed.”