- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2021

President Biden is bringing a long list of U.S. grievances to his highly anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland on Wednesday.

Consider some of Moscow’s actions in the past decade. Russia has:

⦁ Interfered in the U.S. presidential elections in 2016 and 2020, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Mr. Putin rejects the accusations. Pointing to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, he says the U.S. is hypocritical when it tells other countries how to run a democracy.

“They weren’t just a crowd of robbers and rioters. Those people had come with political demands,” the Russian leader told NBC News.

⦁ Harbored hackers who have waged ransomware attacks this spring on key parts of the U.S. economy. The cyberattacks have disrupted operations at a fuel pipeline company, a major meat supplier and other entities.

Again, the Russian president denies any knowledge of the attacks.

“Where is [the] evidence? Where is [the] proof? It’s becoming farcical,” Mr. Putin said this weekend.

⦁ Initiated through its foreign intelligence service the SolarWinds cyberattack against several U.S. government branches that sustained data breaches, in addition to an attack on a company providing services to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.S. expelled 10 Russian diplomats and announced further sanctions against Moscow in April.

Mr. Putin, who responded by expelling U.S. diplomats from Russia, called the cyberattack another of America’s “unfounded accusations.”

⦁ Forcibly annexed territory from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia is still backing military aggression in eastern Ukraine, and Mr. Putin has drawn a red line over Ukraine’s application for membership in NATO, which Mr. Biden generally supports.

⦁ Engaged in continued human rights violations and crackdowns against political opponents, including imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Mr. Biden said Tuesday that it would be a “tragedy” if Mr. Navalny dies in prison.

“It would do nothing but hurt [Mr. Putin’s] relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Putin again denied that the Kremlin poisoned Mr. Navalny last year with a nerve agent that nearly killed him.

“We don’t have this kind of habit, of assassinating anybody,” Mr. Putin said. “Did [Americans] order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?”

He was referring to Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a U.S. Capitol Police officer as she climbed through an interior window near the House floor during the Jan. 6 riot.

⦁ Imprisoned two Americans: Paul Whelan, convicted of espionage, and Trevor Reed, a former Marine convicted of assaulting police while drunk. U.S. officials say both men were convicted on trumped-up charges in unfair trials.

Mr. Biden arrived Tuesday in Geneva after days of high-level meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations in Britain and with NATO and European allies in Brussels. The president, who has called Mr. Putin a “killer” who lacks a soul, said he hopes the Russian leader will be motivated by a desire to change “the perception that the world has in him.”

That hope is doomed to fail, said William Pomeranz, a Russia specialist and deputy director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington. He said Mr. Putin cares about the perceptions of only one audience — Russians — and is focusing on parliamentary elections in September.

Russia really needs an enemy to rally around,” Mr. Pomeranz said in an interview. “Russia needs that type of antagonism, or it needs an enemy, to solidify its unity. And so I don’t see Russia as having an alternative source, other than the United States, to rally around the Russian patriotic flag.”

Senior administration officials again downplayed expectations Tuesday for the Biden-Putin summit. One official cautioned that “a big set of deliverables” is unlikely.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin will talk for up to five hours in three meetings, aides said. The negotiated script calls for Mr. Putin to arrive at the meeting site first, followed by Mr. Biden. Both men will confer together with Swiss President Guy Parmelin.

Next will be a smaller meeting of Mr. Biden, Mr. Putin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and translators. “No breaking of bread” is scheduled, a Biden official said.

The U.S. and Russian presidents will later participate in an expanded meeting, including five aides from each side.

After the meetings, Mr. Putin and then Mr. Biden will hold separate press conferences. Mr. Biden is scheduled to return to the U.S. late Wednesday.

A senior administration official said the two leaders will discuss nuclear stability, the future of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the prospect of “smaller or different arms control agreements” before New START expires in February 2026. Mr. Biden will raise the issues of cyberattacks and ransomware attacks, the need for Russia to stop harboring criminal groups and the expected U.S. response if state-directed hacks continue.

“We will respond,” the U.S. official said.

The adviser said the U.S. will bring up human rights but did not specify whether that includes the treatment of Mr. Navalny.

“Nothing is off the table,” the official said.

Republicans have criticized Mr. Biden for taking the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline off the table. The administration decided last month against sanctioning the Russian company building the pipeline, believing it would raise tensions between Russia and European countries that will receive fuel from it.

The president said Tuesday of his looming meeting, “I’m always ready.”

But Mr. Pomeranz cautioned, “I think the best that he can walk away with is a downplaying of tensions between the two countries. It’s just a chance to start a dialogue with very little expectations as to what can result from it, especially from the Russian side.”

A senior administration official said the U.S. is seeking three “basic” goals.

“First, a clear set of taskings about areas where working together can advance our national interest and make the world safer,” the official said. “Second, a clear lay-down of the areas of America’s vital national interests, where Russian activities that run counter to those interests will be met with a response. And third, a clear explication of the president’s vision for American values and our national priorities.”

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