Isabelle Khurshudyan, John Wagner 5 hrs ago
President Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are meeting Wednesday at a historic lakeside villa in Geneva, as relations between their countries are at their lowest point in 30 years.© Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Biden shake hands during their meeting at the Villa la Grange in Geneva on Wednesday.
During an opening session, Putin said he hopes for a “productive” session while Biden said it was important to be meeting face to face. The meeting is expected to last four to five hours.
Both the White House and the Kremlin have attempted to temper expectations and said not to expect any breakthroughs. Some issues expected to be covered include recent cyberattacks that the United States has said originated from Russia, arms control, human rights and climate change.
Here’s what to know:
- The summit is expected to last four to five hours, officials said, without any breaks for food. Biden and Putin are scheduled to hold separate news conferences after it concludes.
- Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Biden described Putin as a “worthy adversary” and said he was going to clarify to the Russian leader “what the red lines are.”
- Putin described Biden to NBC as a career politician “radically different” from President Donald Trump.
- Putin also said he would be open to a prisoner swap with the United States. Two U.S. Marines are among those being held in Russian prisons — Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed. Putin mentioned Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in the United States for conspiracy to bring drugs into the country, as someone Russia might want back in a swap.
Biden and Putin began their summit with the relationship between their countries at its lowest point decades. The same might be true of their respective press corps.
Shoving ensued Wednesday morning as pools of reporters from the United States and Russia sought to enter the villa where the two leaders were meeting.
U.S. and Russian security officials repeatedly told reporters to line up separately and in single file, but that never happened, according to reporters on the scene.
Instead, the journalists pushed and shoved trying to enter the building. There was screaming and yelling as a Swiss official kept asking everyone to be quiet.
Reporters were told several times they would not be allowed inside unless everyone was orderly. But order never materialized.
The two leaders began speaking in the library of the villa without media inside the room. The reporters arrived noisily.
The Russian state news agency RIA framed the scene as American journalists attempting to “stampede” the meeting.
In a tweet, a White House communications director described what transpired in the library as “a chaotic scrum with reporters shouting over each other” and said some had misinterpreted Biden’s nodding as a response to an individual question when he was merely acknowledging the presence of the journalists.
By: John Wagner and Isabelle Khurshudyan
8:14 AM: Putin expresses hope for a productive meeting; Biden says it’s important to meet face to face© Patrick Semansky/AP President Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.
Putin expressed hope for a productive meeting, and Biden said it was important to meet face to face, as the two leaders settled in for the beginning of an initial session in a library at the Villa La Grange.
In a chaotic scene witnessed by jostling pools of American and Russian reporters, both Putin and Biden spoke briefly before the journalists were ushered out of the room.
Biden was joined by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Putin was accompanied by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The initial session is expected to be limited to those four, plus interpreters.
“Mr. President, I would like to thank you for the initiative to meet today,” Putin told Biden. “The U.S. and Russian relations have a lot of issues accumulated at the highest level. … And I hope that the meeting will be productive.”
“As I said outside, it’s always better to meet face to face,” Biden responded.
Biden said he hopes the two countries can cooperate where they have mutual interests and find a path forward on issues on which they disagree.
After this initial session, a larger meeting is expected to follow, with additional aides joining on both sides.
By: John Wagner and Anne Gearan
7:45 AM: In a break with the past, Putin is punctual© Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they arrive for a summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva on Wednesday.
GENEVA — Putin is notorious for making world leaders wait for him — turning a habit of running late into something of a machismo diplomatic power move.
Among Biden’s aides, there was chatter that Putin might try to pull the maneuver Wednesday in Geneva, arriving late for his scheduled meeting with Biden at the Villa La Grange here.
But Putin arrived before Biden — as previously agreed upon — almost exactly on time, at 1:04 p.m. local time, and the U.S. president arrived 15 minutes later, at 1:19 p.m. local.
After the two men had separately entered the villa, they reemerged several minutes later along with the president of the Swiss confederation. The leaders stood facing the media for several moments, before Biden and Putin — both smiling — reentered the mansion.
Putin’s reputation for late arrivals goes back years, showing up 50 minutes late to meet Pope Francis in 2013, three hours late for a meeting with then-Secretary of State John Kerry that same year, 40 minutes late for a meeting with German Chancellor Angela in 2012 and two hours late to meet the parents of children killed in an air crash in 2002.
By: Ashley Parker and John Hudson
7:33 AM: Putin and Biden arrive at site of their summit, shake hands© Denis Balibouse/AFP/Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin waves as he arrives at Villa La Grange for the U.S.-Russia summit with President Biden in Geneva on Wednesday.
Biden arrived at the Villa La Grange, a historic lakeside villa in Geneva, about 15 minutes after Putin for the start of their highly anticipated summit.
Both were greeted by Swiss President Guy Parmelin upon arrival following trips by their respective motorcades through the streets of Geneva.
Putin ducked out of his limousine and entered the historic mansion on the property without fanfare after greeting Parmelin with a handshake.
Biden paused for an extended handshake with Parmelin after getting out of his limousine.
Both returned to the front door of the mansion with Parmelin a few minutes later, standing on either side of him.
Parmelin welcomed both leaders to Geneva, calling it “the city of peace.”
“I wish you both presidents a fruitful dialogue in the interests of your two countries and the world,” Parmelin said.
Biden and Putin then shook hands and ignored shouted questions from reporters before heading inside.
By: John Wagner
6:38 AM: Putin lands in Geneva. Will he keep Biden waiting?© Alessandro Della Valle/AP Russian President Vladimir Putin steps down the stairs from his airplane for the summit with President Biden in Geneva on Wednesday.
MOSCOW — Putin’s plane touched down in Geneva about 30 minutes before the scheduled start of his summit with President Biden on Wednesday.
That could make the meeting with Biden a rare exception to Putin’s infamous habit of keeping world leaders waiting — sometimes for hours.
At his last meeting with a U.S. president, in 2018 with Donald Trump in Helsinki, Putin was 45 minutes tardy. That could be considered a compliment to Trump; in 2013, Putin was three hours late for a meeting with then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry in Moscow.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds the record, kept waiting more than four hours for a meeting with Putin in 2014.
Putin’s tardiness first made headlines when he made Queen Elizabeth II wait 14 minutes for him in 2003. (The Kremlin said he was stuck in a London traffic jam.) In 2015, during a visit to Vatican City, Putin was an hour late to a meeting with Pope Francis.
Putin showing up four hours late to a 2012 meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych caused something of a diplomatic row. Rather than show up on time, Putin “went to greet a group of Russian bikers known as the ‘Night Wolves’ whose events he has attended in the past,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Viktor Baloga, Ukraine’s emergency situations minister at the time, wrote on Facebook that Putin “exceeded the limits of lateness.”
By: Isabelle Khurshudyan
6:05 AM: U.S. officials expect summit with Putin to last at least four hours, touch on nuclear arms, cyberattacks and human rights© Peter Klaunzer/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock A staff member cleans the red carpet in front of the Villa La Grange, before the arrival of President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
U.S. officials expect Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva to last at least four to five hours Wednesday and touch on an array of topics, including nuclear arms, cyberattacks and human rights.
The logistics were previewed for reporters flying with Biden on Air Force One on Tuesday from Brussels to Geneva by a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans that had not yet been publicly announced.
Putin is expected to arrive at the meeting first, followed by Biden, and then they will both meet with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, the official said.
A small meeting — attended by the two presidents, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and interpreters — is expected to follow. After that, the official said, there will be a larger meeting, with the presidents joined by additional aides.
No meals — or “breaking of bread” — will be involved, the official said.
Before departing, both Putin and Biden are expected to hold separate news conferences.
By: John Wagner
5:40 AM: In images: Putin’s rocky relationship with American presidents© Alexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin meets U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, in September 2016.
When Biden meets with Putin on Wednesday, he will go where many recent U.S. presidents have gone before. The much-anticipated Geneva summit — on the heels of Biden’s whirlwind European tour — is expected to be tense. The new administration has been vocal in its opposition to cyberattacks on American companies by suspected Russian hackers, as well as the Kremlin’s crackdown on political opponents.
A tete-a-tete between Russian and American presidents is customary. Since the Cold War, the two countries have maintained open, if often strained, relations. Putin has met with every sitting president since Bill Clinton in moments filled with awkward silences, icy stares and sometimes professions of trust.
By: Ruby Mellen
5:05 AM: Biden had grins, hugs and ‘love’ for allies. But will not offer a morsel of bread to Putin.© Patrick Semansky/AP President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron visit during a bilateral meeting at the G-7 summit, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Carbis Bay, England. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Biden walked arm and backslapping arm with French President Emmanuel Macron along the beach in Carbis Bay, England, during the Group of Seven summit in an extended transatlantic, intergenerational display of comity. The two were not old pals catching up after more than a year of pandemic isolation, but they nonetheless were making up for lost time.
Their clubby embrace went on and on. And noticeably, interminably on. It transformed from spontaneous and casual into a vociferous rebuke of the tone and philosophy of the previous administration.
There’s diplomacy in the details, in the aesthetic grace notes. And in the empty spaces.
For his meeting with Putin on Wednesday, Biden’s administration has made it plain that there will be no side-by-side news conference. No mutual answering of questions. During their conversation, there will be no meal. No bread will be broken, but presumably there will, at least, be water.
By: Robin Givhan
4:21 AM: Kremlin says with such a vast agenda, there will be no time limit for Biden-Putin talks
MOSCOW — Though officials have said to expect four to five hours of talks between Biden and Putin in Geneva, that might not be enough time to cover the extensive agenda for the summit, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state television Wednesday.
They will talk for as long as they deem necessary, he added.
“No one is setting any time limits on the presidents,” Peskov said. “This will be completely their choice.”
Biden and Putin are expected to discuss cyberattacks, nuclear arms, human rights and climate change, among other issues. Putin might also want to express Russia’s position on Ukraine’s possible admission to NATO, considered an absolute red line for Moscow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pushed for Kyiv to become a full member, but Biden said at a news conference in Brussels on Monday that “it remains to be seen.” He added that Ukraine must first meet the criteria, including cleaning up corruption.
“This is a new element. No such statements have been made before. Of course, Moscow has paid full attention to this,” Peskov said Wednesday, referencing Biden’s comments.
Putin “will clearly define our stance if necessary,” Peskov said.
The issue of returning Russia’s diplomatic property will also be raised by Putin, Peskov said. In 2016, President Barack Obama ordered the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds and the expulsion of 35 Russians over interference in the U.S. presidential election that year.
By: Isabelle Khurshudyan
4:01 AM: Who is Yaroshenko, the prisoner Putin might want in a swap?© Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images This combination of pictures created on June 14, 2021 shows ex-marine Trevor Reed, charged with attacking police and a file photo of Paul Whelan, a former marine accused of espionage, as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow on June 15, 2020.
MOSCOW — While both the White House and Kremlin have said not to expect any big results from Wednesday’s summit, one possibility is a prisoner swap — something Putin said he would be open to in a recent interview with NBC.
Biden is expected to bring up the cases of two former U.S. Marines being held in Russian prisons — Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed. Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian penal colony on espionage charges; he has said he was framed.
Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison after he was accused of hitting a police officer in 2019. In the interview with NBC, Putin called him a “drunk” and a “troublemaker” who started a fight with an officer. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, described the evidence used to convict Reed as “ridiculous.”FAQ: Is a Russia-U.S. prisoner swap possible?
Putin said Russia has “a whole list” of its citizens imprisoned in the United States that it would request in a potential exchange for Whelan and Reed, but he mentioned only Konstantin Yaroshenko by name.
Yaroshenko, a 52-year-old pilot, is serving a 20-year prison sentence at the Danbury, Conn., federal prison for conspiracy to bring drugs into the United States. In 2010, Yaroshenko met with two men about transporting large shipments of cocaine from South America into Liberia and then on to other destinations, including the United States, according to court documents.
What Yaroshenko didn’t know was that the two men he was meeting were confidential sources for a long-running undercover Drug Enforcement Administration operation. Yaroshenko was picked up by Liberian authorities and turned over to DEA officials, who put him on a plane to the United States. His attorneys argued he had been entrapped by the DEA.
“Effectively, we’re talking about a kidnapping of a Russian citizen from a third country,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in July 2010, shortly after Yaroshenko’s arrest.
Whelan’s Russian attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, previously said Moscow also had Viktor Bout, a gun runner who inspired the 2005 Hollywood film “Lord of War,” on its list. Bout is serving a 25-year prison sentence at the federal prison in Marion, Ill.© Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images In this file photo taken on Oct. 5, 2010 in Bangkok shows alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout arriving at the Criminal Court.
By: Isabelle Khurshudyan
4:01 AM: Analysis: An emboldened Biden meets an unbothered Putin
And now for the season finale. Biden landed in Geneva on Tuesday, ahead of his much-anticipated meeting with Putin the next day. The powwow concludes his European tour, coming after a diplomatic sprint through Britain and Brussels. Buoyed by the solidarity of his allies — “They believe that I keep my commitments when I say it,” Biden said Monday — the president is now wheeling around to face an adversary.
There are no great expectations for the meeting with Putin. The United States pushed for it to take place not to herald a “reset” with Russia, but, in the words of White House press secretary Jen Psaki, to “restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship.” Some experts contend that even that may be a tall order given the current atmosphere between Washington and Moscow.
By: Ishaan Tharoor
4:00 AM: Geneva has a history hosting U.S.-Russia summits© Michael Probst/AP Boats lie in the harbor in Geneva, June 16, 2021.
MOSCOW — Switzerland, known for its neutrality, lobbied hard to be the site of Wednesday’s summit between Biden and Putin. Geneva, as a host city, has some historical significance for a past meeting between the two countries’ world leaders.
In 1985, Geneva’s InterContinental hotel was where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had their first face-to-face conversation to discuss the Cold War-era arms race between the United States and Soviet Union. It was hailed a breakthrough for relations.
In Geneva in 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a red “reset” button to symbolize improved ties under Barack Obama’s presidency. But the word “reset” was mistranslated into the Russian word for “overcharge.”
Clinton told Lavrov: “We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?”
“You got it wrong,” he replied.
Now, with U.S.-Russia relations considered at their lowest point in decades, Biden and Putin meet at the historic lakeside Villa La Grange. The mansion has played a part in landmark international events before, notably the first Geneva Convention.
The perimeter of the Geneva harbor will be blocked off to pedestrians and vehicles all day Wednesday. Some shops in the area were told to close. The Swiss police and army have barricaded the two parks surrounding the Villa La Grange. A military presence was observed in the lake itself.
A mural depicting jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny making a heart shape with his hands was painted in the city ahead of Putin’s arrival. A similar mural in St. Petersburg was swiftly painted over by Russian authorities in April. Biden is expected to raise the issue of Navalny’s treatment with Putin on Wednesday.
By: Isabelle Khurshudyan