US, Russian presidents expected to meet for four to five hours, then hold separate press conferences=
President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands in Geneva ahead of a much-anticipated meeting that could last four to five hours on Wednesday, senior White House officials said, noting that “nothing is off the table for an American president.”
Putin arrived in Geneva first, around 12:28 p.m. local time, which is 6:28 a.m. on the East Coast and 3:28 a.m. on the West Coast, accompanied by foreign ministers and a translator. Biden brought Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as a translator. Swiss President Guy Parmelin greeted the two leaders.
The three leaders participated in a photo op, with Biden and Putin shaking hands before the meeting.
At the start of the first meeting, Biden was asked by a reporter if he and Putin could trust each other, and whether he trusted the Russian president. Biden nodded affirmatively. White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said afterward that Biden was not nodding in reaction to any particular question.
“It was a chaotic scrum with reporters shouting over each other,” Bedingfield tweeted. “He said just two days ago in his presser: ‘verify, then trust.'”
Officials said “no meal is anticipated,” but noted that “there will be some flexibility so leaders can take breaks.”
Both Russian and U.S. ambassadors will be in Geneva during the high-stakes meeting, officials said, adding that returning ambassadors to their respective countries is on the table.
Biden and Putin are expected to discuss a range of issues, including Iran and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, Syria, the Arctic, strategic stability, arms control, climate change and COVID-19.
The U.S. and Russia have long competed on a global scale, and while the U.S. exceeds Russian capabilities in many areas, as in the case of the U.S. military, Putin has relied on other factors to bolster Russian dominance — including cyberstrikes.
When asked whether Biden planned to ask Putin about jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, officials said: “When the other side says something is off the table, nothing is off the table for an American president, especially human rights.”
Biden and Putin are also expected to again discuss the intent of the U.S. and Russia to pursue a “strategic stability dialogue on a range of arms control and emerging security issues” to build on the extension of the New START Treaty, according to the White House. The START Treaty places verifiable limits on all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons.
When asked about the prospect of the meeting, Putin had more to say about Donald Trump than about Biden.
“I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. president,” Putin recently told NBC News in his first interview with a U.S. news network since 2018. “He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. And, but he didn’t come from the U.S. establishment, he had not been part of big-time politics before, and some like it some don’t like it but that is a fact.”
Putin added that Biden “is radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man. He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics.”