Putin-Biden summit: mutual grievances on the agenda
MOSCOW – Russian leader Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden are due to meet in Geneva on June 16 amid the biggest crisis in relations between their two countries in recent history.
Here are five key questions leaders should discuss:
Election interference, cyber attacks
The United States has for years accused Russia of meddling in elections and launching cyber attacks against government agencies and private companies.
In April, the Biden administration sanctioned Russia for the SolarWinds cyberattack that affected federal organizations and more than 100 U.S. businesses, and for alleged interference in the 2020 presidential election.
More recently, the White House linked Russia to a cyberattack on global meat-processing giant JBS.
Russia rejects these claims and has in turn accused Washington of supporting its political opposition and funding organizations and media critical of the Kremlin.
Navalny, human rights
Biden said he planned to underscore Washington’s commitment “to upholding human rights and dignity” at the summit.
The Russian opposition says authorities have stepped up the crackdown since January, when Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny returned from Germany where he was treated for a near-fatal poisoning attack.
Navalny was jailed in February and the authorities are preparing to ban his political movement.
Putin accused Washington of “double standards” and of seeking to interfere in Russian internal affairs. In turn, he defended the protesters who stormed the Capitol, saying they had legitimate political demands.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently accused Hollywood of censorship and said the United States had taken political correctness to “absurdity”.
Arms control, conflicts
In recent years, Moscow and Washington have accused each other of violating security agreements, and a key arms deal, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, was quashed after Donald Trump’s withdrawal in 2019.
In June, Putin formally withdrew Russia from the Open Skies deal which allowed signatories to conduct surveillance flights and share the results with their allies after the United States exited last year.
But Putin and Biden extended in February the new nuclear treaty START – the latest arms reduction pact between Russia and the United States.
Putin has warned of a new arms race and has made much of the next generation Russian weapons which he says is rendering Western missile defense systems obsolete.
Tensions persist over the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Ukraine. In April, Russia amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, prompting NATO warnings.
Diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Washington have skyrocketed since Biden took office.
After Biden in March likened Putin to a “killer,” Russia, to a rare extent, recalled its ambassador for consultations and said the US envoy should also return to Washington.
When the United States announced the hacking sanctions against Russia in April, it also expelled 10 Russian diplomats. Moscow retaliated in kind and banned the US embassy from employing foreign nationals.
The US mission was forced to suspend most consular services.
In May, Russia officially designated the United States as an “unfriendly” state. The only other country on this list is the Czech Republic.
The fate of a number of prisoners should also be on the agenda.
Former US Navy Paul Whelan was jailed for 16 years by Russia for espionage. He urged Biden to organize a prisoner swap and said in a recent interview that he fell victim to hostage diplomacy.
Another US citizen, Trevor Reed, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 for assaulting intoxicated Russian police officers.
Moscow may consider the return of notorious US-jailed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout and contract pilot and suspected drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko.
Bout’s elderly mother asked Biden and Putin to negotiate her son’s release.
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