WASHINGTON, June 15. /TASS/. US President Joe Biden's weeklong European tour is approaching the culminating point - talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16. Conflicting statements made by US administration officials lately are many, but the gist of all that has been said is Washington is out to build a stable and predictable relationship with Moscow.
However, as before, the US political elite hopes that it will be able to maintain the dialogue there, where it meets its own interests, while simultaneously resisting Moscow' behavior that Washington finds wrong. Biden will have to keep in mind all the time how the US Congress might react, and to make certain decisions under pressure from both the Democrats and the Republicans, who are demanding the toughest possible approach to Russia and threatening it with new sanctions.
Careful choice of words
Biden began his tenure of office in the White House by prolonging the Measures for the Further Limitation and Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms, commonly known as the New START treaty by five years. In addition, he repeatedly said that the United States did not seek a conflict with Russia but would give a rebuff, if Moscow went ahead with activities the US found harmful to its interests. At the same time, his interview on the NBC television network in March, in which he answered in the affirmative to the question if he regarded Putin as a "killer", heralded the degradation of bilateral relations to a record-low.
At Monday's news conference in Brussels Biden was asked if he continued to regard the Russian leader as a "killer." This time the US leader's choice of words was far more careful.
"Look, when I was asked that question on air, I answered it honestly. I don’t think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting that we’re about to have," Biden said.
He described the Russian leader as a worthy opponent and a clever and tough politician.
It looks like a bundle of unprecedented and urgent global problems has eventually persuaded the US administration to explore ways of normalizing relations between two nuclear powers.
"Our two nations share incredible responsibilities, and among them ensuring strategic stability and upholding arms control agreements. I take that responsibility seriously," Biden told an audience of US military personnel in Britain on June 9.
Among other issues on the agenda of the summit the US administration mentioned climate, the Arctic, Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine and human rights.
The US delegation plans to turn the spotlight on recent cyberattacks against a number of US companies and businesses. Washington argues that some malefactors in Russia were behind all those attacks, as on all previous occasions.
Interviewed for the program Moscow.Kremlin.Putin on the Rossiya-1 federal television channel Putin said that Moscow would be prepared to extradite cybercriminals to the US, if the American side agreed to act likewise. For his part, Biden as a matter of fact confirmed that he was ready to discuss the idea of extraditing such cybercriminals to Russia. However, presidential national security advisor Jake Sullivan later said that Biden in reality meant only the intention to bring hackers to justice inside the US.
Moscow has long invited Washington to draft a cybersecurity agreement and expressed surprise each time the American side refused to have such a dialogue.
Preparations for the summit
Biden has been making thorough preparations for his talks with Putin. According to Time magazine, the CIA's director, former ambassador to Russia William Burns, held a special briefing for the president. Also, the news portal Axios said that a group of experts, including some who had worked at the White House under Donald Trump, advised Biden against holding a joint news conference with Putin so as not to give the Russian leader a chance "to try to upstage the private talks with new public proposals."
After that, the White House said Biden would appear in front of journalists alone, because such a format would be most suitable for talking to them after the summit. The New York Times attributed such a decision to the fear of repeating the unsuccessful experience of the Helsinki summit in 2018, when in the opinion of the current administration Putin gained an upper hand over Trump at a joint news conference.
Expectations for the summit
US experts polled by TASS agreed by and large that arms control and strategic stability were the areas where the two leaders might achieve consent.
NATO's former deputy secretary-general, Rose Gottemoeller, hopes that Biden and Putin might agree to start working on a document that would replace the New START. The head of the US Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball, too, believes that there is a good chance to begin regular discussions of strategic stability issues and, possibly, some official talks on further arms control measures due to follow when the New START expires.
Peter Kuznick, the Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University in Washington, sees certain chances of concluding an agreement on the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, the situation in Afghanistan, and also in the field of cybersecurity, and struggle against climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the former special assistant to the 43rd US president George W. Bush on Russian and Eurasian affairs, Thomas Graham, calls for bearing in mind the great divergence of outlooks, geopolitical interests and values, and also mutual distrust between the two sides.