Joe Biden, USA, US, Vladimir Putin, Russia
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President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are starting their diplomatic talks in Geneva. The two were first greeted by the Swiss president before sitting down for a small meeting that includes just Biden, Putin, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with a translator for each side. They’ll then move to larger talks, which will include more senior aides and are expected to last hours.

The two plan to discuss everything from cybercrime to Russia’s alleged interference in America’s elections, as well as arms control and Russia’s intrusion in Ukraine.

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Both sides have played down expectations for any major breakthroughs, but both Biden and Putin have stressed the need to restore more stable relations between the two nations.

Both have said they hope their talks in a lakeside Geneva villa can lead to more stable and predictable relations, even though they remain at odds over everything from arms control and cyber-hacking to election interference and Ukraine.

“We’re not expecting a big set of deliverables out of this meeting,” a senior U.S. official told reporters, saying the two are expected to talk for four or five hours starting at around 1.30 p.m. (1130 GMT).

Putin and Biden arrived at the summit venue early on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m not sure that any agreements will be reached,” said Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov.

Relations have deteriorated for years, notably with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. charges – denied by Moscow – of its meddling in the 2016 election that brought Donald Trump to the White House.

They sank further in March when Biden said he thought Putin was a “killer”, prompting Russia to recall its ambassador to Washington for consultations. The United States recalled its ambassador in April.

The senior U.S. official said the United States was looking at “areas where working together can advance our national interests and make the world safer.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said whether or not to send back ambassadors would be decided by the two presidents. “Today the presidents will need to determine how to proceed with the heads of the diplomatic missions,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

While the issues may be vexing, the surroundings will be serene at Villa La Grange, an elegant mansion set in a 30-hectare (nearly 75-acre) park overlooking Lake Geneva.

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LOCKDOWN

On Wednesday, the summit perimeter was under a tight lockdown with heavy police presence. Following a their bilateral meeting, Biden and Putin will continue on to their discussions with broader U.S. and Russian delegations including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, along with interpreters.

Arms control is one domain where progress has historically been possible despite wider disagreements.

In February, Russia and the United States extended for five years the New START treaty, which caps their deployed strategic nuclear warheads and limits the land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.

The senior U.S. official said Biden would also define areas of vital national interest where Russian misconduct would bring a response. Biden signed an executive order in April giving Washington wide latitude to impose sanctions on Moscow.

In a sign of the strained ties, the talks will not include any meals and Putin and Biden are expected to hold separate news conferences rather than a joint one. read more

“No breaking of bread,” said the senior U.S. official.

Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat, told Reuters Putin wanted respectful ties and to be treated like members of the Soviet Politburo were in the 1960s-1980s, with “a symbolic recognition of Russia’s geopolitical parity with the U.S.”

“In exchange, they (Moscow) would be willing to cut back on some of the loony stuff,” Frolov said, saying he meant “no poisonings, no physical violence, no arrests/kidnappings of U.S. and Russian nationals. No interference in domestic politics.”

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, set the bar for Wednesday’s talks low.

“The principal takeaway, in the positive sense, from the Geneva meeting would be making sure that the United States and Russia did not come to blows physically, so that a military collision is averted,” he said.

In contrast to Trump, whose 2018 summit with Putin in Helsinki included a meeting accompanied only by interpreters, Biden and Putin are not expected to have any solo dealings.

Standing beside Putin in Helsinki, Trump refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, casting doubt on the findings of his own intelligence agencies and sparking a storm of domestic criticism.

Reuters

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