U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in Switzerland next month, the White House confirmed on Tuesday.
The leaders will convene in Geneva on June 16 to “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 two-sentence statement, a day after she declined to confirm reports of the upcoming meeting.
The Kremlin said in a statement that the leaders would discuss bilateral ties, problems related to strategic nuclear stability, and other issues, including cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 and regional conflicts, Reuters reported.
The summit will be the first face-to-face affair between Biden and Putin since the former entered office in January.
Biden and Putin have spoken several times over the phone since then, including during Biden’s first week in Congress. During an April 13 call, Biden proposed a summit meeting in a third country, according to a White House readout.
Biden has been confrontational with Putin and Russia, bringing up in the calls U.S. claims that Russia interfered in the 2020 election and questionable intelligence that alleged Russia offered bounties for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
He also voiced concerns over Russian military build-up in Crimea and on the borders with Ukraine, and broached the SolarWinds hack, which Russia was accused of facilitating.
Biden imposed new sanctions on Russia in mid-April over “malicious cyber activities” against the United States and expelled Russian diplomats, prompting Russia’s expulsion of 10 U.S. diplomats. The Biden administration levied sanctions on Russian persons and entities in March after the Kremlin allegedly tried to kill opposition figure Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent. But the administration also waived sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, drawing criticism from Republicans.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said recently that ties between the United States and Russia are worse than during Cold War times. In addition to the sanctions, Russian officials grew upset when Biden agreed with a news host this year that Putin is a “killer.”
Former President Donald Trump met with Putin in July 2018 in Finland. Trump was friendly to Putin before, during, and after the meeting, but he and supporters noted that his administration was tough on Russia with actions like shutting down the Russian consulate in San Francisco, withdrawing from a nuclear missile treaty the Russians were not adhering to, and arming Ukraine.
Biden told State Department employees in Washington in February that he would present a different face to Russia.
“I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions—interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens—are over,” Biden said.
“We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people. And we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners.”