Buoyed by allied summits, Biden ready to take on Putin

  • President Joe Biden, center, walks with European Council President Charles Michel, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the United States-European Union Summit Tuesday at the European Council in Brussels. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

GENEVA — Fresh from supportive summits with allies, Joe Biden declared himself ready Tuesday to take on Russia’s Vladimir Putin in far more confrontational talks — a climactic finish to the most important week of meetings in his young presidency.

Biden meets for his first talks as president with the Russian leader today, in what’s expected to be roughly a half-day of discussions between the two leaders and aides behind closed doors. That’s after spending much of a weeklong European trip — the foreign policy highlight of his presidency so far — working to strengthen ties with like-minded partner nations in order to better deal with rivals Russia and China.

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A reporter soon after Biden’s arrival in Geneva on Tuesday shouted out a question on whether he was ready for today’s talks.

“I am always ready,” Biden answered.

The American leader reached Geneva following rounds of cordial elbow bumping, grinning photo sessions and close consultations with global leaders at the Group of Seven, NATO and U.S.-European Union summits.

He secured a series of joint communiques expressing concern over Russia and China, and was at the EU on Tuesday to preside over the announcement of a breakthrough easing a long-running U.S. aircraft trade dispute with that bloc.

As for Russia, the U.S. and the EU declared they “stand united in our principled approach” to the longtime rival, “ready to respond decisively to its repeating pattern of negative behavior and harmful activities.”

Biden’s European tour has aimed to restore U.S. partnerships that were damaged under former President Donald Trump, who openly invited what American intelligence services said was Russian interference in U.S. political campaigns, and who sought out Putin and other autocrats he saw as strong.

In line with the chilly-so-far Biden-Putin relationship — Putin’s government responded with indignation earlier this year after Biden said he considered the Russian a “killer” — the two men plan neither lunch nor dinner together, and no joint press conference after, in what’s expected to be their four to five hours together.

That’s in contrast to this week’s G-7 session hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where the allies and their spouses held a beach barbecue and round after round of “family photos.”

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According to a senior administration official granted anonymity to disclose internal discussions, Biden is hoping to find small areas of agreement with the Russian president, including potentially returning ambassadors to Washington and Moscow.

That and other diplomatic issues, including the tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and closure of consulates, will be high on the agenda for both sides.

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