World Biden likely to come out of Putin summit empty-handed and risks handing the Kremlin a victory, former US officials warn
Biden, unlike predecessors, has maintained Putin skepticism
President Joe Biden frequently talks about what he sees as central in executing effective foreign policy: building personal relationships. © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this March 10, 2011 file photo, then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
- Biden's upcoming summit with Putin will be one of his biggest tests yet as president.
- Experts say it's unclear what Biden hopes to gain from Putin, who wants to keep the US as an adversary.
- If Biden doesn't come out with "clear deliverables," the summit could be perceived as a win for the Kremlin, a former US official warned.
President Joe Biden'swith Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, is poised to be one of his biggest tests yet as commander-in-chief and will mark his first big face-to-face meeting with a US adversary on the global stage.
Some US allies near Russia are wary of Biden-Putin summit
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Central and Eastern European nations are anxious about the coming summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, wary of what they see as hostile intentions from the Kremlin. Some in the countries that once were part of the Soviet Union or the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact during the Cold War worry that Washington could scale down support for its allies in the region in a bid to secure a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia.
Relations between the US and Russia have been deteriorating for years, and Washington has struggled to come up with an effective response to Putin's increasingly aggressive behavior both at home and abroad. Experts warn that Putin has no intention of using the meeting to improve relations, and question what Biden has to gain via the summit.
"Analysts are struggling to understand what concrete outcomes President Biden will achieve in return for giving Vladimir Putin such an important international spotlight in return for Russia's increased malign behavior," Heather Conley, a former senior official for European issues in the State Department under President George W. Bush, told Insider.
"If there aren't clear deliverables (and both sides have been downplaying outcomes), I think criticism will grow that this high-level meeting ultimately benefited the Kremlin," Conley, now director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, went on to say.
Biden and Putin agree relations are abysmal. Will their meeting change anything?
President Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin agree the nations' relationship is at a low point before their summit. Trump sends the ex-KGB chief 'warmest regards.'Both said as much in interviews leading up to Wednesday's meeting in Geneva, which comes amid tensions over myriad issues, including a spate of cyberattacks emanating from within Russia; Putin's military adventurism along his country's border with Ukraine; and his imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who survived poisoning with a Russian nerve agent.
The US has struggled to influence Russia's behavior amid historic tensions
The historically contentious dynamic between the US and Russia can in many ways be traced back to Putin's unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014, but it's been exacerbated by a range of other issues in the years since. The ongoing war in eastern Ukraine involving Kremlin-backed rebels, the Syria conflict, Russia's interference in US elections, the Kremlin's treatment of critics like Alexei Navalny, the propping up of Belarus's authoritarian leader, and concerns over hacking and cybersecurity have also driven a wedge between the two major powers.
Biden has sought to walk a fine line between condemning Russia over actions seen as detrimental to US interests, while also underscoring that Washington does not seek conflict with Moscow and wants a more stable, predictable relationship. But not even a year into his presidency, the US and Russia are engaged in
What can Biden and Putin hope to accomplish at their summit?
After years of mounting antagonism, expectations are low, red lines are drawn and the presidents have plenty to disagree on. But there are openings.The Biden administration hopes merely to foster a more "stable and predictable relationship" with Russia. For Putin, the summit in Geneva will be all about demonstrating that his country is taken seriously as an international power.
The Biden administration's actions to punish Russia, however, have yet to produce a demonstrable change in behavior from Putin.
The administration, for example, slapped sanctions on Russian officials over the poisoning of Navalny - Putin's top critic - with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. Meanwhile, Navalny has been imprisoned for 2 1/2 years over charges widely seen as politically motivated. And just a week before the Biden-Putin summit, Navalny's political network was officially outlawed in Russia by being dubbed extremists. It wasthat Putin will continue to crackdown on dissent in extraordinary ways in spite of US pressure.
"Sanctions are essentially meaningless in changing the Kremlin's calculations but they do challenge the Russian economy," Conley said.
Biden and US allies aren't on the same page about Russia
In many ways, former President Donald Trumpwhen it comes to Putin by consistently refusing to criticize the Russian president or take a hardline stance against his nefarious activities.
Biden to confront Putin in tense Geneva summit
President Joe Biden will draw "red lines" for President Vladimir Putin at a tense Geneva summit on Wednesday, where ghosts of the Cold War will hover over modern-day US concerns that Russia has become a rogue, authoritarian state. © Jim WATSON President Joe Biden says he wants to draw 'red lines' for Russia during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin © Gal ROMA Key issues on the agenda in the Biden-Putin summit The setting -- a sumptuous villa overlooking Lake Geneva -- may be picturesque, but a gruelling diplomatic face-off awaits.
"Biden can go a long way toward a successful summit merely by avoiding Trump's mistakes," Stephen Sestanovich, an expert on Russia and professor on international diplomacy at Columbia University,for the Council on Foreign Relations. "The former US president never understood that by not challenging Putin on election meddling and other issues, he made bipartisan pushback from Congress (and new sanctions against Russia) unavoidable. Biden, by contrast, seems to be eager to put forth Western complaints, even as he tries to put relations on a better track."
After four years of erratic behavior from Trump thatand , Biden is vying to use his first trip abroad as president to show the world that the US is still a reliable global partner and leader. Biden also wants demonstrate to adversaries like Russia and China that the US and its democratic allies are united against autocracy, and that he will be a lot tougher and more consistent than his predecessor.
In chest-thumping remarks before US service members at RAF Mildenhall in England on Wednesday, Biden warned Putin there would be consequences if Russia threatens the US and its democratic allies. "I've been clear: The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities," Biden said.
Images of Biden's meeting with Putin show a cool but cordial dynamic as the president seeks a reset after Trump
Trump's behavior toward Putin repeatedly sparked criticism in Washington and fueled suspicions about the president's loyalties.Biden's approach to relations with Putin has marked a significant shift in the US stance toward Russia in comparison to the past four years under former President Donald Trump.
-The Recount (@therecount)
Indeed, the president has made thea key theme in his rhetoric on foreign policy, painting an optimistic picture of US allies united against repressive governments. But Biden could face major roadblocks in that regard as he meets with fellow G7 leaders and NATO allies who have made it clear they with the president when it comes to challenging Moscow and Beijing.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, hasregarding the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia into Germany. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his confirmation hearing said the administration would be "determined to do whatever we can to prevent" completion of the project. But the Biden administration in late May ultimately waived sanctions on the company building the pipeline. The company's CEO, former East German intelligence officer Matthias Warnig, is a close ally of Putin's.
Biden has also faced criticism from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regarding his approach to Russia. Erdogan in March blasted Biden for referring to Putin as a "killer," adding that such remarks "against the president of a country like Russia is truly unacceptable, not something that can be stomached."
Biden and Erdogan are set to meet in Brussels on the sidelines of the NATO summit on June 14, and it has the potential to produce as many fireworks, if not more, as the summit with Putin.
Biden-Putin summit: Key takeaways from their high-stakes meeting
Here are key takeaways from the high-stakes summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both men called their meeting positive, but while Biden said he raised serious concerns and warned of consequences, he did not claim he got Putin to commit to changing his behavior and the Russian leader accepted no responsibility for cyberattacks on the U.S. or for anything else.
Turkey has long been considered a key US ally, but Erdogan's increasingly anti-democratic approach to leadership and a series of controversial foreign policy decisions - including purchasing a Russian missile defense system - have undermined the partnership. Biden's description of Erdogan as an autocrat and formal recognition of the Armenian genocide have placed further strains on the alliance.
'The Kremlin's policy approach toward the West is predicated on instability and unpredictably'
Though Biden faces clear challenges heading into his summit with Putin, former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul in a recentsaid there's still a "narrow agenda available for bilateral cooperation."
The former US diplomat said the two leaders can set the stage for a new arms-control agreement after recently extending the New START nuclear nonproliferation treaty, reverse a recent trend of diplomatic expulsions and consulate closures, and agree to cooperate on issues like Iran's nuclear program, assistance for Syrians, climate change, and the pandemic.
"Biden's goal should not be 'improved relations with Russia.' Instead, Biden and his team should define concrete security, economic and value-related goals they seek to achieve, and then brace for disappointment," McFaul wrote. "Judging by his actions, Putin does not want a stable, predictable or normal relationship with Washington. He needs the United States as an enemy."
-Michael McFaul (@McFaul)
Conley said if Biden "is able to reach a broad agreement with Putin on a negotiating framework for upcoming US-Russian arms control talks and is able to lift Russian resistance to opening humanitarian corridors in Idlib (Syria), that would be a positive outcome in addition to calling out Russia's aggressive actions and its domestic repression."
"Biden will try to compartmentalize areas where cooperation is needed (arms control) and desired (climate change and the Arctic) while contesting the areas where we disagree strongly," Conley said. "This has been the essence of US policy toward Russia for the past 20 years. The only difference between the crisis in the bilateral relationship then and now is that the crisis is deeper and the structures and rules that used to manage these differences have been eliminated. "
Along those lines, Conley warned, "We may want stable and predictable relations but the Kremlin's policy approach toward the West is predicated on instability and unpredictably. This will not change."
Biden is playing a long game with Putin. Will it work?: ANALYSIS .
After their summit this week, President Joe Biden said he is playing a long game with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Will it work?: ANALYSIS. After their afternoon summit in the Swiss capital, Biden said give him time to see if his approach works -- trying to play to Putin's long desire to have Moscow seen as a key power, respected and feared around the globe.