US President Joe Biden will conclude his first state visit to Europe on Wednesday afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland with a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after attending G7 and NATO summits. It will be the first time the two have met since Biden took office earlier this year.
For days, analysts and observers have been trying to hypothesize what the consequences of the meeting will be: no one expects major improvements in relations between the United States and Russia – the meeting was not preceded by months of preparations, as happens on the occasion of important steps – but if successful, it could be the first step for some mutual concessions and a rapprochement on some issues, including the mechanisms to prevent nuclear rearmament.
The meeting will begin at 1 pm local time, when Biden and Putin will greet the President of the Swiss Confederation Guy Parmelin and attend a meeting with their own Secretaries of State, namely Antony J. Blinken and Sergei Lavrov. Later, other officials and collaborators will join. There is no meal: the meeting should last 4-5 hours, writes the New York Times.
Although at the beginning of his term Biden had given Putin about the killer and spoke several times about the need to free the dissident Alexei Navalny, who has been in prison for a few weeks for some laughable charges, in recent days Biden and his administration have softened a lot. the tones. Biden called Putin “a worthy opponent”, “a tough person”, while no warlike proclamations have leaked from the White House ahead of the meeting.
Most likely Biden’s approach is part of a definite strategy. «The summit is very important from a symbolic point of view, because it places Russia in the same league as the United States; and for Putin, symbolism is important ”, he explained to BBC News Andrei Kfortov, director of the Russian International Affairs Council study center.
Experts explain that the United States has avoided bombastic statements also to allow Putin to make some small concessions, and still sell the meeting as a success. Its popularity has been declining for months, due to a long-lasting economic crisis and confusing handling of the pandemic, and it would benefit from a positive outcome from the meeting.
Biden has much more concrete reasons for getting something out of Putin. Recently, several American companies have been hit by cyber attacks: the most talked about case was the attack on the Colonial Pipeline, the largest US oil pipeline for refined fuels. Colonial Pipeline and other companies have been victims of so-called attacks ransomware, which consist in stealing data from the victim with the aim of obtaining a ransom (ransom, in English). Experts believe that most of these attacks come from Russia, from private criminals who somehow manage to escape the authorities: as a symbolic gesture of rapprochement, Biden could ask Putin to exert more control over the attacks. ransomware made by Russia (although some doubt that the Russian state has the resources and expertise to do so).
– Read also: The cyber blackmail industry explained
Others believe that another symbolic concession could be the return of Russian and US diplomats to their respective host countries, following the tensions and expulsions of recent months.
The meeting will also discuss the New Start treaty, which limits both countries to possessing no more than 1,550 nuclear warheads, and climate change, to verify whether there is room for limited collaboration on these two issues.
In Russia they also note that it will be the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that Putin will travel abroad: in the last year and a half he has worked in what has been called a “bunker” in the city of Sochi with very little contact with the while those he met in person were asked to do a two-week quarantine (and to undergo a giant spray of disinfectant before the meetings, writes the Guardian citing local newspapers). The meeting will be covered by the main Russian TV channels and is probably the most anticipated political event of 2021, so far.