President Joe Biden has bluntly called Vladimir Putin a “killer” and said he “doesn’t have a soul.”
While he may have used robust language in the past, he is playing his cards closer to his chest ahead of the showdown with his Russian counterpart in an 18th-century Swiss villa overlooking Lake Geneva.
Landing in the U.K. last week, Biden told cheering throngs of U.S. Air Force personnel he planned to “meet with Mr. Putin to let him know what I want him to know.”
He warned Putin there would be consequences if Russia attacks the United States or its allies.
“I’ve been clear,” Biden said. ”The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities.”
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The president laughed this week when a reporter asked if he thought the sit-down overlooking Lake Geneva would quickly shift Putin’s behavior.
As for how he would convey his message, Biden quipped, “I’ll tell you after I deliver it.”
The U.S. has been forced to confront hacking operations and election interference from Russia. Meanwhile, Putin has massed troops along Ukraine’s border. Days before Biden’s inauguration, Russia arrested opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Central to the summit’s strategy is carving out a more stable path ahead, said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute.
“If we can get agreement to stop the ransomware attacks by criminals, but which are under Russia’s jurisdiction, that would be stabilizing. But the bigger piece is, of course, the nuclear piece,” Rojansky said, pointing to the New START treaty, the last remaining strategic nuclear agreement that Biden and Putin extended by five years in January.
“Biden’s term is four years out of those five,” he said. “Now is the time to think about what replaces New START when it’s done. And that process is likely to start following the summit, and I would argue the summit is a necessary first step to that.”
In 2009, Biden announced a “reset button” between the two countries while serving as former President Barack Obama’s vice president.
“This is a different time,” Rojansky said. “But there are some things that are not different. I don’t think Joe Biden is different.”
Biden’s call for a “reset” with Russia came during the White House’s first major foreign policy address, as the vice president spoke to the Munich Security Conference, a central gathering place for the U.S. and its NATO and European allies.
While the circumstances today differ, Biden is taking a similar tack by meeting first with mostly friendly powers, the G-7 in England, followed by the European Union and NATO summits in Belgium. Neutral Switzerland was where former President Ronald Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 to discuss the nuclear arms race, paving the way toward an end to the Cold War.
“Our Russia policy has always, in a sense, run through Europe. And that European alliance is so central to the way that Biden has always thought about dealing with Russia, and that part hasn’t changed,” Rojansky said.
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, driving the Russia sit-down is a need to take stock of Washington and Moscow’s “poor” relationship. Peskov told CNN the meeting is an attempt to ward off “further degradation.”
Biden and Putin have a similar strategic objective in this regard, with Biden eager to avoid clashes that could disrupt his agenda at home.
The White House has set expectations low, telling reporters the meeting is not about “deliverables.”
Rather, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, “We are thinking of it as an opportunity to communicate what our intentions and capabilities are.”
Hanging over this is a laundry list of fraught issues for the countries to discuss, and key to moving the dial is first getting Putin on board.
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“You need Putin to give the imprimatur to the Russian system,” Rojansky said. “If you try to just do this working from the bottom up … you’re not going to get anywhere.”
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Tags: News, White House, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, Russia, G7, Putin, Vladimir Putin
Original Author: Katherine Doyle
Original Location: Biden gears up for showdown with ‘killer’ Putin on placid Lake Geneva