World The Putin summit may backfire on Biden
Blinken's warning for Putin: He will answer for ransomware attacks
Secretary of State Tony Blinken warned that Vladimir Putin will have to answer for the ransomware attacks that caused meat and gas prices to skyrocket.'We would prefer to have a more stable, predictable relationship with Russia. We’ve made that clear. But we’ve made equally clear that if Russia chooses to act aggressively or recklessly toward us or toward our allies and partners, we’ll respond,' Blinken told Axios' Mike Allen in an interview that aired on HBO.
President Joe Biden hasthat he’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to do two things: to “decide where it’s in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that,” and in “the areas where we don’t agree, make it clear what the red lines are.”
That may sound good, but experts warn Biden is setting himself up for potential failure.
That’s because setting “red lines” that can’t be crossed (or else) with an unpredictable leader such as Putin is a risky move. Should Putin later cross one of Biden’s red lines — perhaps by allowing prominent dissidentto die in prison, or by letting Russian cybercriminals (or his own spies) conduct another cyberattack on either or our — it would be an embarrassing slap in the face to the American president.
Biden to champion democracy in first foreign trip
Joe Biden will fight what he calls a "defining" battle for democracy on his first foreign presidential trip, meeting top US allies in Europe ahead of a tricky summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin. "This is a defining question of our time," Biden wrote in The Washington Post ahead of his trip. "Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries? I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it.
“I’m worried about the humiliation afterward. It could be a real political hit to President Biden,” said Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, DC.
Even more dangerous, though, is the potential that Biden could feel pressured to respond forcefully, having all but promised to do so. Although such a move may be justified, it would foil Biden’s goal of better relations with Russia, leaving them to plumb new depths.
All told, the Biden-Putin summit may offer more risk than reward.
“Putin is predictably unpredictable”
In multiple, Biden has stated he wants the US and Russia to enter “a stable and predictable relationship.” It’s unclear what, precisely, that means, but most experts interpret the line as the administration saying it wants Putin to stop targeting America and its Western allies.
Vladimir Putin Returns Compliments to Donald Trump Ahead of Joe Biden Meeting
The two presidents will meet in Switzerland on June 16 for their first bilateral summit since Biden came to office.Trump issued a statement on Thursday praising his relationship with Putin and touting a 2018 meeting between the two in Helsinki, Finland. He also mockingly offered Biden good luck, saying "don't fall asleep during the meeting.
Over the last decade, Russia has, among other things,, , , and potentially .
That’s why Biden’s main mission in Switzerland is to tell Putin to knock it off, and instead find ways to rebuild trust with the US. As an example of what that relationship could look like, the administration continuously points to how the two countries recentlyfor five years.
The problem is that it takes two people to build a “stable and predictable relationship,” and it doesn’t seem like Putin wants to do that.
“Putin is predictably unpredictable,” said James Goldgeier, a senior visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. “He wants to keep the pressure on and provoke the West” in part to deflect from his failures at home, such as his inability to.
For Putin, Biden summit is all about respect
When Vladimir Putin meets Joe Biden for their first summit on Wednesday the Russian leader will not be looking for progress on arms control, the lifting of sanctions or even an apology for the US president saying he is a "killer". Putin already got what he wanted: the summit itself. After a week of meeting allies from the G7, European Union and NATO, Biden will end his first major foreign trip with Putin in Geneva. Tensions between Moscow andPutin already got what he wanted: the summit itself.
What’s more, Putin knows Biden would rather focus on dealing with China than with Russia, which gives the autocrat all the more incentive to seek attention with bold actions.
Putin achieved both of those objectives — annoying the West and remaining in the headlines — in April when he amassed, leading many to worry that Russia was planning a larger-scale invasion of the country. The same month, ; days later, .
Putin, then, seemingly bullied his way into a summit with Biden, giving him the platform he prestige he craves.
The larger problem for Biden is that Putin’s playbook likely won’t change after Geneva — and that opens Biden up to a world of problems.
If Putin misbehaves after Geneva, Biden will have to retaliate
Biden hasn’t said what exactly the red lines are that he’ll give Putin during their meeting. But experts say they’re likely to include Nalvany’s death, another massive government hack, and future election interference.
Putin: Navalny 'Deliberately Ignored' Russia's Laws by Going to Germany After Poisoning
Putin defended his pushback on Navalny and his supporters, saying he didn't want an incident like the January 6 Capitol Riot to happen in Russia.Navalny and Russia's treatment of dissidents was on the list of topics President Joe Biden was looking to raise in his first summit with Putin on Wednesday. The U.S. and countries around the world see the crackdown on dissidents and Navalny's harsh treatment in prison as a gross human rights violation that also raises concerns about Putin's stronghold on ruling Russia.
Take Navalny. For months, the Biden administration has made clear that the dissident’s death in Russian custody is a red line. “We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” National Security Advisertold CNN in April.
Analysts believe the US still maintains that position. On Monday, Bidenduring a press conference that Navalny’s death “would be a tragedy” and “do nothing but hurt [Putin’s] relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me.”
These kinds of public statements already leave Biden with little wiggle room should Navalny die. But if that were to happen after the US president had warned Putin directly, to his face, that Navanly’s death was a red line for him, it would be viewed as a direct affront and challenge to the American leader.
And Navalny’s death is an unfortunate possibility. Putin toldjust this week that he couldn’t guarantee the activist’s safety. “Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president,” he said.
That’s rich coming from Putin, an authoritarian leader with a firm grip on his country’s security services. After all,that the last year was orchestrated by a Russian intelligence agency, and analysts say such an operation wouldn’t have happened without the dictator’s explicit approval.
All of this means that Biden would have little choice but to respond to Navalny’s death in a major way, likely with harsh sanctions in concert with European allies. Hein response to the Kremlin’s election interference and government hacking.
But therein lies the rub: Those April penalties didn’t change Putin’s behavior, and experts say future ones probably won’t, either. The retaliation would be justified, they note, but not necessarily effective.
“There are only so many sanctions and expulsions you can do,” said Brookings’s Goldgeier. “They’re not really major tools at this point.”
Biden, then, has backed himself into a corner. He’s headed to Geneva in the hopes of convincing Putin to change his ways. But if he fails to persuade the Russian, as analysts expect, then Wednesday’s summit could simply set up a worse future between the US and Russia.
“Hope is not a plan,” said Goldgeier.
Vladimir Putin Says Joe Biden is 'Intelligent, Collected, Does Not Miss a Thing' .
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave high marks for U.S. President Joe Biden after their meeting in Switzerland this week—despite their rocky relationship of the past. © PETER KLAUNZER / POOL / AFP/Getty Images US President Joe Biden (R) talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to the US-Russia summit at the Villa La Grange, in Geneva on June 16, 2021. "Biden is a professional, and you need to work very carefully with him so as not to miss something," Putin told reporters Thursday—a day after they met in the neutral site of Geneva, Russian state-owned media TASS reported.