After bonding with his well-mannered counterparts at the G7 Summit, President Biden is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, a man he called a “killer.” Biden’s aim at the G7 was to smooth over international relations that had become frosty under Donald Trump, a goal his European allies shared. They emerged chanting gauzy slogans, seeking to “Build Back Better” after the ruination wrought by the pandemic.
Biden will similarly try to improve the relationship with his Russian counterpart. But unlike the Europeans, Putin has something very different in mind. He, too, has goals for the meeting but they involve self-aggrandizement and using the masquerade of cooperation to allow him to continue to harm America, as the Soviets before him did under détente.
As usual, the Americans are offering Russia a reset button. And as usual, Russia will contemptuously cast it aside.
Both presidents have acknowledged that U.S.-Russia relations are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Putin has threatened that the global security system is degrading and “the potential for conflict is growing.” TASS, the official Russian government “news” agency, compared the upcoming meeting between Biden and Putin to the June 4, 1961, meeting in Vienna between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, who was known for banging shoes on desks at the United Nations. Putin has laid the groundwork for doing so, inflicting what were undoubtedly state-sponsored cyber attacks on the United States — the employment of criminal groups to achieve the Russian state’s strategic goals is a common Kremlin tactic — and seeking to unbalance Biden by praising Donald Trump as an “extraordinary” and “talented individual,” while insulting Biden as a lifelong politician and “career man.”