August 14, 2022

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet for the US-Russia Summit on June 16, 2021 at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

One of the most anticipated political events of the year began with the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden at their summit in Geneva.

The two heads of state shook hands as they greeted each other at Villa La Grange in the capital of Switzerland, which was chosen as the location of the summit due to its political neutrality.

Speaking to his U.S. counterpart, Putin said he hoped the meeting would be productive.

“Mr President, I would like to thank you for your initiative to meet today,” said Putin, who sat next to Biden and was accompanied by their respective foreign ministers. “It’s always better to meet face-to-face,” Biden replied, reported Reuters.

The summit, which is expected to last up to five hours, includes 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 and government.

Russian President Vladimir Putin waves next to Swiss President Guy Parmelin when he arrives in Geneva for the US-Russia summit at Villa La Grange on June 16, 2021.

Denis Balibous | Reuters

The summit began with an initial meeting between Biden and Putin, accompanied by Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and translators.

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 agenda

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, one 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 nerve gas attacks (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.

The agenda of the presidential meeting is likely to include “strategic stability”, climate change and nuclear stability, arms control and cybersecurity, and possibly a number of other topics such as the fate of Navalny, Ukraine, Belarus and the prospects for Russia and US citizens living in the countries each other are imprisoned.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (C) is greeted at Geneva Airport as he arrives for a Russia-US summit.

Sergei Bobylev | TASS | Getty Images

No “large amount of services”

On Tuesday, a senior White House official said the Biden administration did not expect “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 topics of conversation 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.

Read more: Biden and Putin are about to have a high stakes meeting: you need to know that

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

Still, 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 Americans’ slogan was that they wanted predictability and stability in the relationship and it’s on a downward spiral, things 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 living standards.

“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.”