Patrick Semansky / AP
President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in Geneva on Wednesday. This is what you need to know:
- Putin is expected to arrive at 7 am ET. Biden arrives shortly after.
- The closed-door meeting is expected to last four to five hours.
- Putin wants to hold his own press conference. Then Biden will give you his.
- We will broadcast Biden’s press conference live here when it begins.
It will be the first formal meeting between the leaders of the two nations in three years, a period in which relations between the United States and Russia have grown increasingly tense.
Advisers say Biden is not there to make friends or build trust with a rival he describes as “brilliant,” “tough,” and “a worthy adversary.” There’s a lot on America’s agenda, from recent ransomware attacks by Russian cybercriminals and air hacking in Belarus to gun control and climate change. Concern must be expressed about human rights abuses, strongman tactics against opposition leaders and the imprisonment of two Americans.
The latest meeting between Putin and former President Donald Trump ended with the now-infamous Helsinki press conference in which Trump sided with the Russian leader on American intelligence agencies (which Trump later attempted to back down).
There won’t be a repeat of that scene this time, especially since Biden and Putin won’t be holding a joint press conference after their meeting. Attendees say the meeting is expected to last four to five hours, but will not include a meal, “without breaking bread,” a senior administration official told reporters.
Biden declined to say what exactly he hopes to get out of the meeting, what he intends to push Putin forward or what success would look like, saying there would be no point in negotiating in the press.
“I will tell you this: I am going to make it clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he wishes,” Biden told a news conference Monday. “And if you choose not to cooperate and act in the way that you have in the past, in relation to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond. We will respond in the same way.”
Biden met Putin when he was vice president and has openly criticized the Russian leader, once calling him a “murderer.” Asked about those comments in an NBC interview before the summitPutin laughed and downplayed concerns about hacking, as he has with other cyber intrusions attributed to Russia.
“[Biden’s] The opinion is that this is not a meeting about trust, it is not a meeting about friendship, it is a meeting to find out where we can find common ground, and also to be direct and honest about the areas that concern us, “said the secretary. White House press officer Jen Psaki said during an on-air briefing on Air Force One.
Biden told reporters that he did not want to have a joint press conference with Putin to avoid a breathless analysis of body language. That’s likely unavoidable, as reporters and photographers are expected to be available for an exchange of courtesies and a handshake on top of their bilateral meeting.
But the lack of a joint press conference means that Biden won’t have to stand by Putin’s side with open mic. Instead, in a highly choreographed sequence of events, Putin will hold his press conference first. Then, Biden will answer questions from reporters. This setup will allow the American president to characterize the meeting and, if necessary, counter the narrative not shared by Putin.
Republican critics are already preparing to paint Biden as weak after the meeting.