U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Geneva this Wednesday. The American and Russian leaders will be meeting for the first time since Biden took office in January. This closely watched, highly anticipated discussion comes at a time of tension and impasse between the two leaders like never seen before.
“We’re not expecting a big set of deliverables out of this meeting,” a senior official told press on Air Force One.
That’s because the two world leaders not only hold very different positions on urgent issues like Syria, the Ukraine, and China, but also because they want to create two very different perceptions of themselves out of this meeting: Washington wants to be seen as stable and unchallenged by Moscow, and Moscow wants to be seen as an uncompromising world power unafraid of the states.
What’s on the table at the summit between Biden and Putin
The two presidents have a slew of issues to address between each other. Some of the most pressing to look out for include Ransomware cyberattacks tied to Russia targeting the U.S., nuclear weapons, the Ukraine, Syria, Belarus, and a U.S. political prisoner being held by Russia.
No evidence has been released showing that recent Ransomware attacks on American infrastructure were executed by the Russian government, but the attacks are still believed to be Russian in origin, possibly by rogue Russian hackers. Biden is speculated to press the issue tomorrow, hoping to get the Kremlin to strengthen its grip on hackers and potentially turn them over to the U.S. government.
Both Russia and the U.S. are the world’s leading stockpilers of nuclear arms. This past February, both nations chose to extend the START treaty, limiting the amount of missiles, bombers, and nuclear warhead either country can use.
The Ukraine is perhaps the biggest divider between the two countries since the Cold War. The U.S. sided with the Ukraine after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, becoming the most visible ally to the Ukraine, a move that deeply soured its relationship with Russia.
The U.S. is vying for Russia to give Crimea back to Kyiv and allow for a balance of power in the Eastern European region.
Biden will also confront Putin over the Kremlin’s refusal to back the U.N.’s effort to provide aid to Syria amidst its devastating, year long civil war. The aid operation’s mandate is set to expire this month and Biden will most likely try to convince Putin to contribute to it, although success may not be likely. Russia’s main gripe with the aid operation is that it is not distributed through Syria’s central government, avoiding the power channel of Bashar Al-Assad, with whom Putin is allied.
Another point of contention is the recent outburst of dissent in the eastern European country of Belarus. The Belarusian people were enraged by what they saw as a fixed election of longtime president Alexander Lukashenko. Putin and Lukashenko are close allies, and Russia has been accused of using its influence to help Lukashenko tighten his grip on Belarus. Lukashenko recent decision to land a commercial flight to arrest a dissident blogger on board was met with overwhelming outcry.
The whole world is tensely watching to see if progress can be made between the two leaders, as there sphere of power has far reaching influence and implications internationally.