Yet after two phone calls with Putin, Biden remained convinced that one-on-one conversations were the only enough place to really engage the notoriously troubled leader.
And after more than 40 years of watching other presidents determine American foreign policy, it was ultimately their decision.
Biden takes the lead
His determination to meet Putin even in the face of doubt reflects what officials said was a deeper approach to developing a personal relationship – even with the most authoritarian of leaders – from major issues at present. Obviously the only way to deal with it. The world is facing. Putin, Biden has told his team, will only respond with strength and honesty.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said this week that “there is no substitute for leader-to-leader engagement, especially for complex relationships, but with Putin it happens increasingly.”
“He has a highly personal style of decision-making and so it’s important for President Biden to sit face-to-face with him, to be clear about where we are, to understand where they are, our differences.” , and identify areas where we can work in America’s best interest to make progress.”
In Biden’s view, the stakes of his first foreign trip are nothing less than democracy. A highly symbolic choreography will take them from the Group of 7 meeting on the Cornish coast in England to the summit with NATO allies in Brussels, Belgium, before concluding the Putin summit in Geneva, Switzerland, on the banks of which the first between Ronald Reagan The talks were hosted. And Mikhail Gorbachev 36 years ago.
Asked before leaving what his goals were for the visit, Biden told reporters: “Clarifying to Putin and China that Europe and the United States are tight and the G7 is going to move forward.”
Biden will also try to reassure allies about America’s role in the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.
According to two people, the President can make a big announcement related to global production at the G-7 summit on Thursday. In a sign of the role the pandemic will play in Biden’s first visit, he is bringing along one of his top coronavirus advisers, Jeff Ziants.
Leaving Joint Base Andrews, Biden said he had a vaccine strategy for the world that he would announce, but did not offer specifics.
Yet Europeans are skeptical that another president, potentially Trump himself, could reverse everything Biden does or says. He will also face new tensions towards the US that has been running high in the wake of the pandemic, only to slowly begin sharing vaccines with the world.
“The Trans-Atlantic Coalition is back,” Biden told aides in a speech shortly after taking office. “And we’re not looking back. Together we’re looking forward.”
When Biden was Vice President, he traveled to more than 50 countries; The 1.2 million air miles he covered would have taken him around the circumference of the Earth 48 times. He became so famous at Shannon Airport – an airstrip in western Ireland where American aircraft often refuel on their western return – that the staff once held a special Mass for him on the holy day of obligation.
And although next week will be his first meeting with Putin in Geneva, it will hardly be Biden’s first meeting with the man he once claimed, inches from his nose, that he had no soul. is.
Trump’s shadow remains
As US officials began planning the summit with Putin, they knew the talks would require the better part of a day. Biden’s two previous phone calls with Putin, described by officials as respectful but candid, spilled over to a long list of diplomatic disputes as the two men back-and-forth – often exemplifying Putin’s unfolding events in the United States. of hypocrisy when challenged on human rights for a long time by the habit of raising
“I’ve been in the room with Putin several times when I was working for President Obama. And that’s what always characterizes these summits,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former deputy national security adviser.
“The point is to create cynicism, that nothing really matters, that it’s not even worth challenging, that everyone is just as corrupt as everyone else. And I guess it’s up to Joe Biden.” to make a clear distinction between what America stands for. What the world and Vladimir Putin have been doing for more than two decades.”
It’s unclear what the president hopes to gain from the meeting – something that Biden himself acknowledges. Asked by reporters before he left if he would be able to negotiate a deal with Putin on cyberattacks from Russia, Biden said, “Who knows?”
“It’s going to be the subject of our discussion,” Biden said.
Administration officials also said they were mindful of avoiding any comparisons with Trump, ruling out Helsinki as a venue, despite Finland’s offer to host it as it did over three summers. . Asked if Biden planned to meet Putin face-to-face without any aide, as Trump did, Sullivan said details were still being finalised.
“Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped the last century prove their mettle against modern-day threats and adversaries?” Biden wrote in an op-ed for the weekend in The Washington Post. “I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have a chance to prove it.”