President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva for less than four hours of talks on Wednesday, a highly anticipated summit that comes as both sides say U.S.-Russia relations have sunk to a new post-Cold War low.
The latest: At a press conference following the conclusion of the summit, Putin called the talks "very constructive' and announced that the U.S. and Russia's respective ambassadors would return to their posts. Biden called the talks "positive" and stressed in his press conference that his agenda is "for America," not "against Russia."
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The Russian president was defensive when pressed on key issues by foreign journalists, and repeatedly accused the U.S. of hypocrisy and of causing the deterioration in relations (Highlights).
Biden said he raised human rights and cyberattacks with Putin, including 16 pieces of infrastructure limits that the U.S. would consider off limits: "The bottom line is I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by." (Highlights).
The U.S. and Russia delegations in an expanded bilateral meeting. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images
Catch up quick: After greeting each other outside Villa La Grange, a mansion overlooking Lake Geneva, the leaders sat for a brief photo op as reporters shouted questions. According to White House pool reports, a chaotic scuffle ensued when security tried to usher reporters out of the room.
Russian security reportedly started pushing journalists, causing several to trip over the rope separating them from the leaders. Politico's Anita Kumar called it "the most chaotic" scene she's witnessed at a presidential event in nine years. Read the full pool report.
Biden, Putin, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov then held their first closed-door meeting, which concluded at 9:17 a.m. ET after about 90 minutes, according to a White House official.
The leaders concluded an expanded bilateral meeting — their second and final round of closed-door talks — after about an hour. The session was shorter than expected.
What they're saying: "The U.S. and Russia relations have a lot of issues accumulated that require the highest level meeting and I hope that our meeting will be productive," Putin said before the first meeting, according to a translator.
"Thank you. As I said outside, I think it’s always better to meet face-to-face,” Biden responded.
Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images
The big picture: Neither side believes that substantive agreement will come from the meeting.
Biden is expected to raise concerns about Russia's election interference, harboring of cyber criminals, crackdown on dissidents, detention of American citizens, and aggression toward Ukraine.
Many of Biden's predecessors came into office hoping to improve or reset relations with Russia. Biden's goals are more modest: to work together on the few issues, like nuclear security, where interests overlap, and to avoid crises that will cause relations to deteriorate any further.
A senior administration official said the White House is seeking "three basic things":
"First, a clear set of taskings about areas where working together can advance our national interest and make the world safer."
"Second, a clear laydown of the areas of America’s vital national interests, where Russian activities that run counter to those interests will be met with a response."
"And third, a clear explication of the president’s vision for American values and our national priorities."
Who was in the room for the U.S.:
Secretary of State Antony Blinken,
National security adviser Jake Sullivan,
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland,
National Security Council top Russia adviser Eric Green
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan
Who was in the room for Russia:
Putin aide Yuri Ushakov
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov
Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
Deputy Kremlin chief of staff Dmitry Kozak
Special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev
A plane carrying Putin lands at Geneva Airport. Photo: Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images
Putin steps down the stairs from his airplane. Photo: Alessandro Della Valle/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Russian and U.S. flags on the Mont-Blanc bridge ahead of the summit in Geneva on June 16, 2021. Photo: Pierre Albouy / AFP / Getty
Officials stand near the entrance of the Villa La Grange prior to the U.S.-Russia summit in Geneva. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
The room at Villa La Grange where the two leaders will meet Photo: Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images
Valery Gerasimov, Russia's first deputy defense minister and chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Putin Dmitry Peskov, and Putin aide Yuri Ushakov (L-R) talk ahead of the summit at the Villa La Grange. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images
Putin and Biden shake hands for the first time since Biden became president. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.
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