Politics

Biden will meet Russian leader Putin on June 16 in Geneva, White House says

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Key Points
  • Issues in the summit meeting are expected to include the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline and U.S. sanctions over the Kremlin's treatment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
  • The announcement comes less than a week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov held cautious face-to-face talks in Iceland.
President Joe Biden (L) and President Vladimir Putin.
Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Geneva, the White House said Tuesday.

"The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a brief statement.

The Kremlin confirmed the meeting.

"We intend to discuss the state and prospects of further development of Russian-American relations, problems of strategic stability, as well as topical issues on the international agenda, including interaction in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and the settlement of regional conflicts," it said, according to a Google translation of the Russian text.

The announcements come less than a week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov held cautious face-to-face talks in Iceland. That meeting was the highest-level in-person talks yet between Washington and Moscow under the Biden administration.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gesture as they arrive for a meeting at the Harpa Concert Hall, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial summit, in Reykjavik, Iceland, May 19, 2021.
Saul Loeb | Reuters

Issues in the summit meeting are expected to include the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline and U.S. sanctions over the Kremlin's treatment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Biden-Putin summit is expected to strike a different tone than what occurred in Helsinki in July 2018, when then-President Donald Trump was trying to strike an alliance with Putin. Trump insisted that the two leaders meet at the beginning of the summit without any aides present — stirring concerns that the former KGB officer would outflank his American counterpart.

That summit came days after the Justice Department charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democrats in an attempt to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump told reporters after meeting with Putin that he believed the Russian president's denial about interfering in the election, rejecting the consensus conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community.

President Donald Trump (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, July 16, 2018. 
Mikhail Metzel | TASS | Getty Images

Under Biden, the U.S. has been pushing back against Russia on several fronts.

Earlier this month, a hacking group with suspected ties to Russian criminals staged the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, forcing the U.S. company to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of pipeline, leading to a disruption of nearly half of the East Coast fuel supply and causing gasoline shortages in the Southeast.

Ransomware attacks involve malware that encrypts files on a device or network that results in the system becoming inoperable. Criminals behind these types of cyberattacks typically demand a ransom in exchange for the release of data.

VIDEO2:4902:49
Colonial Pipeline CEO explains his decision to pay ransom

After the attack by DarkSide, Biden told reporters that the U.S. did not currently have intelligence linking the group's ransomware attack to the Russian government.

"So far there is no evidence from our intelligence people that Russia is involved although there is evidence that the actor's ransomware is in Russia, they have some responsibility to deal with this," Biden said on May 10. He added that he would discuss the situation with Putin.

The Kremlin has denied claims that it has launched cyberattacks against the United States.

In March, the United States sanctioned seven members of the Russian government for the alleged poisoning and subsequent detention of Navalny, the leading critic of Putin in Russia. The sanctions were the first to target Moscow under Biden's leadership. The Trump administration did not take action against Russia over the Navalny situation.

Later in the month, Biden called Putin a "killer" and vowed the Russian leader would "pay a price" for interfering in the 2020 U.S. election and trying to boost Trump's reelection chances.

In April, Washington slapped Russia with another round of U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, sweeping cyberattacks and attempts to influence U.S. elections. The Biden administration also expelled 10 officials from Russia's diplomatic mission in the United States.

Moscow has previously denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed U.S. allegations. Russia described the latest moves by the White House as a blow to bilateral relations and vowed to impose swift retaliatory measures.

In response to the U.S. action, Russia expelled 10 U.S. diplomats from the American Embassy in Moscow and sanctioned eight senior U.S. administration officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

At the White House on Monday, Psaki downplayed concerns that the meeting between Biden and Putin would be viewed as a "win" for the Russian government.

"This is how diplomacy works. 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," Psaki told reporters during a press briefing.

"It's an opportunity to raise concerns where we have them and again, to move toward a more stable and predictable relationship with the Russian government," she added.