- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2021

President Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Switzerland, the White House said Tuesday.

The visit in Geneva comes on the heels of the Group of Seven meetings in Carbis Bay, Britain.

“The leaders will 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.

The Kremlin put out a simultaneous statement in Moscow confirming the date and time.

The meeting will be a closely watched affair.

Mr. Biden says he wants a “predictable and stable” relationship with Russia, a power that has bedeviled the U.S. and West. 

Intelligence officials blamed the Russians for cyber-interference in the 2016 presidential election and contests in Europe, and Mr. Putin and his forces continue to stoke tensions along the Ukraine border. Russia says the U.S. and NATO have been the aggressors.

President Obama tried to reset relations with Russia during Mr. Biden’s time as vice president, only to see tensions rise over Crimea and other issues. Former President Donald Trump was often faulted for his reluctance to criticize Mr. Putin directly.

The meeting announcement comes after a flurry of activity related to U.S.-Russia relations.

The Biden administration last month announced sanctions tied to the massive SolarWinds hack that Mr. Biden’s team blamed on Russia.

More recently, the administration announced sanctions on Russian entities for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany — but sidestepped penalizing the German company overseeing the massive project, which is opposed by the U.S.

Mr. Putin is a close ally of Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’ strongman president who orchestrated the recent diversion of a private airliner to detain a journalist. Mr. Biden and much of Europe condemned the action.

“I will say that while our focus and the purpose of a meeting like this will be to move to a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia after several years where it has not been exactly that — and we believe we can do that in a constructive manner — it does not mean that we will hold back on areas where we have concern,” Ms. Psaki told reporters this week.

Despite the underlying tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the administration did strike a deal to extend a nuclear arms reduction treaty shortly after Mr. Biden took office.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the meeting can only be construed as a reward for Mr. Putin after a series of bad acts, including harsh treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“We’re rewarding Putin with a summit? Putin imprisoned Alexei Navalny, and his puppet Lukashenko hijacked a plane to get Roman Protasevich,” Mr. Sasse said. “Instead of treating Putin like a gangster who fears his own people, we’re giving him his treasured Nord Stream 2 pipeline and legitimizing his actions with a summit. This is weak.”

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