Biden will speak to press alone after Geneva meetingTrump caused outcry by accepting Putin denials at Helsinki
Guardian staff and agenciesSat 12 Jun 2021 09.21 EDT
Joe Biden will give a solo news conference after his meeting next week with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, the White House has said.
Putin and Biden will meet in Geneva on Wednesday. The White House has said Biden will bring up ransomware attacks emanating from Russia, Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine, the jailing of dissidents and other issues that have irritated the relationship.
A US official said the meeting in Geneva on Wednesday is expected to be “candid and straightforward”.
But they added: “A solo press conference is the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press the topics that were raised in the meeting, both in terms of areas where we may agree and in areas where we have significant concerns.”
The White House said the meeting would involve “a working session and a smaller session”, without giving further details.
Washington has insisted for weeks now that its aim is to make relations between the two countries more “stable and predictable”.
The joint press conference that followed the meeting between Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and Putin in Helsinki in July 2018 is still fresh in the memory in the United States.
Trump caused an outcry in his own camp by indicating he accepted the word of Putin above the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 US presidential election campaign.
Putin has said US-Russia relations are at their lowest point in years, in an interview ahead of the meeting.
“We have a bilateral relationship that has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin said, according to an NBC translation of excerpts of an interview broadcast on Friday.
Putin characterised Trump as “an extraordinary individual, talented individual”, but impulsive, and said Biden, as a career politician, was “radically different” from the “colourful” Trump.
“It is my great hope that, yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting US president,” he said, according to a translation by NBC News.
Putin has openly admitted that in the 2016 vote he supported Trump, who voiced admiration for the Russian leader and notoriously at their first summit appeared to accept his denials of election interference.
Biden, at the start of an eight-day visit to Europe this week, said: “We’re not seeking conflict with Russia.
“We want a stable and predictable relationship … but I’ve been clear: the United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities.”
Putin was asked about several Russian dissidents whose deaths have been blamed on Moscow, including the ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in 2006. Putin dismissed the question and said some of those responsible for the deaths had gone to prison.
Asked about Biden calling him a killer in an interview in March, Putin said he had heard dozens of such accusations. “This is not something I worry about in the least,” Putin said, dismissing it as part of “macho behaviour” common in Hollywood.