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President Biden will meet in person with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, next month. 

It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Biden became president.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the June 16 meeting in a statement on Tuesday, saying the two leaders “will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship.”

The meeting had been in the works for some time and will take place at the end of Biden’s first trip abroad to Europe.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, spoke to his Russian counterpart on Monday in preparation for the summit. Biden is slated to attend a Group of Seven (G-7) summit in the United Kingdom from June 11-13 and travel to Brussels for a NATO summit and meetings with European Union leaders on June 14, meaning he will enter the meeting with Putin after having demonstrated solidarity with European allies and the NATO alliance.

Biden called for the face-to-face meeting with Putin in April after his administration unveiled a raft of sanctions intended to penalize Russia for the SolarWinds cyberattack and meddling in the 2020 presidential election. 

Tensions between the United States and Russia have run high for years and while previous presidents have sought to reset relations, Biden has taken a different approach by calling for cooperation in some areas while confronting Russia over its malign behavior in hopes of altering it. 

Biden’s meeting with Putin is likely to be less friendly than the Helsinki summit between former President Trump and the Russian leader in July 2018, during which Trump publicly doubted the U.S. intelligence assessment that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

The meeting in Switzerland will present an opportunity for Biden and Putin to discuss a range of issues, including those where the U.S. seeks Russia’s cooperation like climate change, nuclear arms control, and the coronavirus pandemic. 

Biden will also have the opportunity to confront Putin over the poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which the U.S. has strongly condemned, Russian aggression in cyberspace and Moscow’s continued illegal occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. 

Psaki told reporters at a press briefing that the meeting would cover strategic stability, arms control following the extension of the New START treaty with Russia and efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Biden also plans to underscore U.S. support for Ukraine, she said, and raise concerns about Belarus after the country forced the landing of a commercial plane to arrest a activist.

The two leaders have spoken twice over the phone and Putin also attended Biden’s virtual climate summit in April during which Biden pledged to work with Russia and other countries on combating climate change. 

Biden has recently come under bipartisan criticism for choosing to waive sanctions against a Russian-owned company behind the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) quickly criticized the White House’s decision to schedule the summit with Putin as “weak,” saying it would legitimize the Russian leader’s actions.

“Putin imprisoned Alexei Navalny and his puppet Lukashenko hijacked a plane to get Roman Protasevich,” Sasse said in a statement, referring to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. “Instead of treating Putin like a gangster who fears his own people, we’re giving him his treasured Nord Stream 2 pipeline and legitimizing his actions with a summit. This is weak.”

Asked to respond to that criticism, Psaki said the White House viewed it not as a reward but as a “vital part of defending America’s interests” and an opportunity to chart a more stable, predictable relationship with Russia. 
 
“This is how diplomacy works,” Psaki said. “We don’t meet with people only when we agree. It’s actually important to meet with leaders when we have a range of disagreements as we do with Russian leaders.”

Updated at 1:05 p.m.

Tags Ben Sasse Biden-Putin meeting cyberattacks Donald Trump G-7 Jake Sullivan Jen Psaki Joe Biden Russia Russia-U.S. relations SolarWinds Vladimir Putin

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