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Biden, Putin Agree to June 16 Summit in Geneva

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WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a summit next month in Geneva, the first face-to-face meeting of the two leaders at a time when the two countries are at odds on several contentious issues.

The White House confirmed details of the June 16 meeting with Putin on Tuesday, saying Biden would add the meeting to his first international trip as president when he visits Britain for a meeting with the Group of Seven leaders and Brussels for a NATO summit.

Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki said he and Putin “will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship.”

Biden had first proposed a summit in a call with Putin in April, even as his administration was preparing to impose sanctions against Russian officials for the second time during the first three months of his administration.

Biden has taken a different approach to Putin than former President Donald Trump, who often dismissed allegations that Russia assisted him in winning the presidency in 2016. But Biden and Putin also agreed early in Biden’s presidency to a five-year extension of an expiring nuclear arms control pact. 

Jabs at Russia 

Biden has alleged, based on U.S. intelligence findings, that Russians interfered in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The U.S. has also contended that Moscow was behind a hacking campaign called SolarWinds to infect software in networks at nine U.S. agencies to allow Russian agents to gain access.

In a television interview, Biden said he believed Putin to be a “killer,” prompting Putin to cite America’s past and present troubles, from the slaughter of Native Americans during the 18th century settlement of the country, to slavery in the 19th century and racial injustice throughout the country’s history.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Biden’s “killer” comment showed that he “definitely does not want to improve relations” with Russia and that relations between the countries are “very bad.”

Washington also has attacked Russia for the arrest and jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The Biden administration in March sanctioned several mid-level and senior Russian officials, as well as more than a dozen businesses and other entities over a near-fatal nerve-agent attack on Navalny in August 2020. Navalny returned to Russia shortly before Biden’s January inauguration and was quickly arrested.

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is seen on screens via video link before a hearing to consider an appeal against an…

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny is seen on screens via video link before a hearing, in Moscow, April 29, 2021. (Press Service of Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow/Handout)

Cyberattack response

In April, the Biden administration expelled 10 Russian diplomats and sanctioned dozens of Russian companies and individuals in response to the SolarWinds hack and election interference allegations. A day later, Russia responded with its own expulsion of U.S. envoys.

Throughout his 2020 campaign for the White House, Biden described Russia as the “biggest threat” to U.S. security and alliances, and he disparaged Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin.

In a speech to State Department workers after assuming the presidency, Biden said that in his first call with the Russian leader, “I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our election, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over.”

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