In advance of his hotly anticipated sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Joe Biden is taking cues from a group of outside Russia experts, including former Trump administration officials, according to reports.
Biden has met with dozens of U.S. allies in the lead-up to his Wednesday summit with the former KGB agent, but guiding his posture is a panel of seasoned officials who know Putin firsthand.
Fiona Hill, the White House's top Russia expert from 2017 to 2019, is among the group. Hill was with President Donald Trump during his June 2018 meeting with Putin in Helsinki, where Trump questioned his own intelligence community's analysis of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Lawmakers and former foreign policy officials from both political parties still consider the Helsinki summit, and its bizarre joint press conference, a diplomatic debacle for the United States and its long-term interests.
Hill later testified during Trump's first impeachment hearings, as House lawmakers probed the 45th president's dealings with Ukraine, including a phone call with its then-new leader during which Trump suggested the Ukrainian government announce an investigation of Hunter Biden, a son of his eventual general election foe, Joe Biden.
Two former Obama administration ambassadors to Russia joined the session, Michael McFaul and John Tefft, as did Rose Gottemoeller, deputy secretary of NATO during the Trump and Obama administrations and the chief negotiator for the New START treaty. The White House National Security Council senior director for Russia, Eric Green, was also a participant.
On Monday, Biden called Putin "bright," saying "he's tough, and I have found that he is, as they say when we used to play ball, a worthy adversary." But both leaders have said the relationship between their countries is at its lowest point in years.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday, a senior administration official said the two will not hold a joint press conference.
While the day of meetings could run between four and five hours, the leaders are not expected to share a meal.
There will be “no breaking of bread,” the official said.
Following those sessions, Putin and Biden will give separate press conferences.
Biden's Russia experts have advised him against holding a joint press conference with Putin, Axios said. The president defended the decision on Sunday, telling reporters the tete-a-tete "is not a contest."
White House officials did not respond to requests confirming the session.
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Original Author: Katherine Doyle
Original Location: Biden briefed by some of Trump's Russia experts ahead of Putin showdown