Historic handshake in Geneva: Biden and Putin begin summit

GENEVA - The summit between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin began with a historic handshake in Geneva on Wednesday. The relationship between Moscow and Washington has been shattered for a long time; it is the first meeting of the two since Biden took office at the beginning of the year. The US President had invited Putin to the summit in order to point out "red lines" in view of Moscow's policies, which are increasingly criticized in the West. However, the presidents of the two largest nuclear powers also want to talk about common interests.

The host, the Swiss President Guy Parmelin, welcomed the two of them to the "City of Peace" and wished them fruitful discussions. Then Biden and Putin shook hands on the red carpet in front of Villa La Grange on Lake Geneva. The two want to talk about strategic stability in the world. The meeting takes place in the library of the villa, it should last several hours.

Putin said during the photo op in the library: "Mr. President, I would like to thank you for taking the initiative for today's meeting." He hoped the talks would be productive. "I know you had a long journey. A lot of work. Nonetheless, many questions have pent up in Russian-American relations." Biden replied, "I think it's always better to meet face to face." The US President tried to smile more often for the photographers, Putin mostly looked down seriously.

Experts expect that Putin and Biden could initiate new negotiations for nuclear disarmament and control of the arsenals. According to information from both sides, topics are also the conflicts in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and the dispute over the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. Biden and Putin then want to appear separately in front of the press.

The US President has been in Geneva since late Tuesday afternoon, Putin landed on Wednesday afternoon. In the past few days, Biden had secured support for his meeting with Putin from allies in the G7 group of important industrialized countries, NATO and the EU. "I will make President Putin understand that there are areas in which we can work together if he chooses," said Biden after the NATO summit in Brussels. "And in the areas where we disagree, make it clear what the red lines are."

Putin and Biden agree that the relationship between their countries, which is overshadowed by numerous sanctions, is at a "low point". Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the Tass state agency on Wednesday: "Even in Soviet history, we have never had such a shortage of contacts." This lack of dialogue now exists "against the background of a growing potential for conflict in the world". Putin's spokesman referred to pressing global issues such as "regional conflicts, disarmament problems, problems in the area of strategic stability, arms control".

On Russian state television, Peskov said that arms control negotiations should start immediately. These are complex and complicated conversations. "This is an issue that goes beyond bilateral relations. It affects the whole world." Russia and the USA agreed in January to extend the New Start disarmament treaty by five years. The agreement limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries to 800 carrier systems each and 1,550 operational nuclear warheads each. But it is the last major nuclear disarmament agreement between the two largest nuclear powers.

According to Peskov, the meeting is also about a possible return of the respective ambassadors to Moscow and Washington. Russia withdrew its ambassador because of Biden's "killer" statement about Putin and later asked the US ambassador to return to his homeland as part of new "anti-Russian sanctions".

Biden had announced that he would be critical of the increasing repression and human rights violations in Russia. It is expected that Biden will address the case of the imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny and the delicate situation in authoritarian Belarus. A US government official said Biden was not off the table at the meeting. Washington also sees Moscow behind cyber attacks on US facilities and accuses Russia of interfering in US elections. Russia rejects these allegations.


White House, Biden, Trump, US Government
Image by: Valentin Armianu | Dreamstime.com
News source: https://www.awp.ch