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Biden, Putin Ready For Summit          06/16 06:06

   U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin sit down Wednesday for 
their highly anticipated summit in the Swiss city of Geneva, a moment of 
high-stakes diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that relations between 
their countries are at an all-time low.

   GENEVA (AP) -- U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin sit down 
Wednesday for their highly anticipated summit in the Swiss city of Geneva, a 
moment of high-stakes diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that 
relations between their countries are at an all-time low.

   For four months, the two leaders have traded sharp rhetoric. Biden 
repeatedly called out Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers 
on U.S. interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Russia's 
foremost opposition leader and interference in American elections.

   Putin, for his part, has reacted with whatabout-isms and obfuscations -- 
pointing to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to argue that the U.S. 
has no business lecturing on democratic norms and insisting that the Russian 
government hasn't been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks 
despite U.S. intelligence showing otherwise.

   Now, the pair will meet for their first face-to-face as leaders -- a 
conversation that is expected to last four to five hours. In advance, both 
sides set out to lower expectations.

   Even so, Biden has said it would be an important step if the United States 
and Russia were able to ultimately find "stability and predictability" in their 
relationship, a seemingly modest goal from the president for dealing with the 
person he sees as one of America's fiercest adversaries.

   "We should decide where it's in our mutual interest, in the interest of the 
world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that," Biden told reporters earlier 
this week. "And the areas where we don't agree, make it clear what the red 
lines are."

   Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told The Associated Press on Wednesday 
that no breakthroughs were expected and that "the situation is too difficult in 
Russian-American relations.""

   "However, the fact that the two presidents agreed to meet and finally start 
to speak openly about the problems is already an achievement," Peskov said 
several hours before the summit's scheduled start time.

   Arrangements for the meeting have been carefully choreographed and 
vigorously negotiated by both sides.

   Biden first floated the meeting in an April phone call in which he informed 
Putin that he would be expelling several Russian diplomats and imposing 
sanctions against dozens of people and companies, part of an effort to hold the 
Kremlin accountable for interference in last year's presidential election and 
the hacking of federal agencies.

   Putin and his entourage will arrive first at the summit site: Villa La 
Grange, a grand lakeside mansion set in Geneva's biggest park. Next come Biden 
and his team. Swiss President Guy Parmelin will greet the two leaders. Putin 
landed in Geneva on Wednesday shortly before the scheduled start of the 
meeting; Biden -- who was in Europe for a week of meeting with allies -- 
arrived the day before.

   The three will spend a moment together in front of the cameras, but only 
Parmelin is expected to make remarks, according to a senior administration 
official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

   Biden and Putin first will hold a relatively intimate meeting joined by U.S. 
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. 
Each side will have a translator.

   The meeting will then expand to include five senior aides on each side.

   After the meeting concludes, Putin is scheduled to hold a solo news 
conference, with Biden following suit. The White House opted against a joint 
news conference, deciding it did not want to appear to elevate Putin at a 
moment when the president is urging European allies to pressure Putin to cut 
out myriad provocations.

   Biden sees himself with few peers on foreign policy. He traveled the globe 
as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was given difficult 
foreign policy assignments by President Barack Obama when Biden was vice 
president. His portfolio included messy spots like Iraq and Ukraine and 
weighing the mettle of China's Xi Jinping during his rise to power.

   He has repeatedly said that he believes executing effective foreign policy 
comes from forming strong personal relations, and he has managed to find 
rapport with both the likes of Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom Biden has 
labeled an "autocrat," and conventional politicians like Canada's Justin 
Trudeau.

   But with Putin, whom the president has "no soul," Biden has long been wary. 
At the same time, he acknowledges that Putin, who remained the most powerful 
figure in Russian politics over the span of five U.S. presidents, is not 
without talent. Biden this week suggested that he is approaching his meeting 
with Putin carefully.

   "He's bright. He's tough," Biden said. "And I have found that he is a -- as 
they say...a worthy adversary."

   The White House held on to hope of finding small areas of agreement.

   No commitments have been made, but according to the senior administration 
official, there are hopes that both sides will return their ambassadors to 
their respective postings following the meeting. Russia's ambassador to the 
U.S., Anatoly Antonov, was recalled from Washington about three months ago 
after Biden called Putin a killer; U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan left 
Moscow almost two months ago, after Russia suggested he return to Washington 
for consultations.

   Both ambassadors will be in Geneva during Wednesday's meeting.

   Biden administration officials say they think common ground can be found on 
arms control. International arms control groups are pressing the Russian and 
American leaders to start a push for new arms control by holding "strategic 
stability" talks -- a series of government-to-government discussions meant to 
sort through the many areas of disagreement and tension on the national 
security front.

   The Biden team will press its concerns on cybersecurity. In recent months, 
Russia-based hackers have launched alarming attacks on a major U.S. oil 
pipeline and a Brazil-headquartered meat supplier that operates in the U.S.

   The Russian side has said that the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader 
Alexei Navalny is an internal political matter and one area where Putin won't 
engage Biden. But the senior Biden administration official said there "is no 
issue that is off the table for the president," suggesting Navalny will come up.

   The meeting is sure to invite comparisons with President Donald Trump's 2018 
meeting with Putin in Helsinki, where the two leaders held a joint news 
conference and Trump sided with Russian denials when asked whether Moscow had 
meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

   Biden has prepared for his one-on-one by reviewing materials and consulting 
with officials across government and with outside advisers. Aides said the 
level of preparation wasn't unusual. Biden, in a brief exchange with reporters 
upon a rriving in Geneva on Tuesday night, sought to offer the impression that 
he wasn't sweating his big meeting.

   "I am always ready," Biden said.

 
 
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