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Tuesday, 28 May 2024
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    Biden-Putin summit: US and Russian leaders set for tense Geneva talks

    US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are preparing sit down for their first, highly-anticipated summit.

    The talks in Geneva, Switzerland, come at a time when both sides describe relations as being at rock bottom.

    Issues include arms control, sanctions and US allegations of Russian cyber-attacks and election interference.

    No major breakthroughs are expected but there are hopes of finding small areas of agreement.

    The summit is set to begin at around 13:00 (11:00 GMT).

    It comes on the tail-end of Mr Biden’s first foreign trip as US president, in which he has also attended meetings with G7 and Nato leaders. Going into the summit, Mr Biden has stressed that he has the backing of his Western partners.

    The meeting will be held in a villa overlooking Lake Geneva.

    The choice of Geneva as the setting harks back to the Cold War summit between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.

    Flags of the US, Russia and Switzerland photographed in front of the entrance of the villa La Grange, one day prior to the US - Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 June 2021.
    image captionFlags of the US, Russia and Switzerland have been erected at Villa La Grange ahead of the meeting

    However, there is little prospect that Wednesday’s summit will match that meeting either for personal rapport or political thaw, BBC Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford reports. 

    Yuri Ushakov, Mr Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, told journalists in Moscow that the US-Russia relationship was “at an impasse”, and there was “not much” ground for optimism.

    Neither currently has an ambassador in-country, and Russia recently included the US on its official list of “unfriendly states”.

    However, Mr Putin told state TV there were “issues where we can work together”, starting with new nuclear arms control talks, discussing regional conflicts including Syria and Libya, and climate change.

    “If we can create mechanisms for working on those issues, then I think we can say the summit was not in vain,” he said.

    Similar messages have been given by the US.

    A senior official told reporters they were “not expecting a big set of deliverables out of this meeting”.

    But Mr Biden has said it is an important step if the two countries are able to ultimately find “stability and predictability” in their relations.

    He says he hopes to work with Mr Putin on areas where co-operation is in the interests of both countries.

    In the run-up to the talks, the US president – who has previously described Mr Putin as a killer – called the Russian leader “a worthy adversary”.

    So what can the summit achieve?

    Analysis by Gary O’Donoghue, Geneva

    It might restart some contact – that is one of the things that is hoped for. If you think that for the last few months there hasn’t been an ambassador in Moscow and Washington from either side – that is really a pretty poor state of affairs.

    They will also try to find some common areas, particularly on things like arms proliferation where there is a mutual interest in preventing further growth of nuclear weapons arsenals.

    Beyond that, there is some talk of climate change – the Americans are not really convinced that Vladimir Putin is a convert to the climate change cause, but it is something that they are keen to try to explore with him.

    After that it is about red lines: Trying to stop Russia – as the Americans see it – interfering in elections, launching cyber-attacks and encouraging people to launch ransomware attacks.


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