What can the Biden-Putin summit achieve?

The presidents of Russia and the US are meeting in Geneva today to discuss the pandemic, regional conflicts, and nuclear weapons. In the run-up to the summit Biden emphasised that in addition to engaging in dialogue he would be laying down red lines, while Putin declared that relations between the two countries were at a low point. In Europe's press, however, not everyone's expectations for the summit are low.

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Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Lay down the rules for the fight

Avoiding a major conflict between the US and Russia is the only real issue at this summit, says Radio Kommersant FM:

“Given how things have developed in recent years, such a scenario has become increasingly realistic. Mainly because, unlike in the Cold War, the two sides no longer engage in dialogue. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine where the proverbial 'red lines' are which must not be crossed under any circumstances. ... The summit in Geneva is an attempt to steer US-Russia relations back into the flow of a familiar, predictable confrontation. A new start is still a long way off. But it would be good to at least revive certain rules, boundaries and a respectful attitude.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Great potential for climate protection and disarmament

Despite numerous differences there's a good chance that the US and Russia will start to cooperate more in many areas, The Irish Times comments optimistically:

“Both leaders know that it's in their interests to manage this confrontation. They see scope for further talks on arms control and point to their deal, shortly after Biden took office in January, to extend the 2010 New Start nuclear arms control treaty. On the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, the two capitals are in closer alignment than at any point in the last five years, while each has every reason to cooperate in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Contributors (RO) /

Russia aiming for realpolitik

Former intelligence officer Cristian Felea discusses in Contributors the idea that Russia and the US could bury their conflicts to sabotage Beijing's power position:

“Russian obsession with zones of influence remains the controversial issue. ... Putin, like Yeltsin before him, will make the case for maintaining the status quo on Russia's western border and instead hold out the prospect of working with the US to contain China. Putin's plea will be an exercise in realpolitik playing by all its rules. Whether Joe Biden will react positively to this we won't know for sure for a few years. But we'll be able to tell from other signs and developments.”

Polityka (PL) /

More than Putin deserves

Polityka complains that the meeting sends an undesirable message:

“The Biden-Putin summit in Geneva will convey a false impression of balance between the superpowers and of the Putin regime being predictable and stable. And it will indirectly 'forgive' Russia and its aggressive actions. We can assume in advance that Biden will say something harsh about Russia but won't announce any concrete measures, punishments or sanctions, so Putin will be able to leave Geneva claiming it was a success. Such a scenario is certainly not in the interest of the US, the European Union or Nato.”

The Times (GB) /

Defend Poland and the Baltic

Biden should make it crystal clear to Putin that he will not compromise on security and values, The Times warns:

“In seeking a more stable relationship [with Russia], Mr Biden needs to make clear that the US will continue to strengthen the defences of Poland and the Baltic states. This is not an escalation but a commitment to collective security when Russia has shown itself heedless of the territorial integrity of neighbouring states. ... Mr Biden cannot transform the nature of Mr Putin's rule either by flattery or coercion. It will be his task instead to convey the message that the US will not acquiesce in Russia's current course, or cease defending human rights and legal norms.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Seek dialogue while showing strength

All of Biden's skill is now required, explains Corriere del Ticino:

“It cannot be ruled out that Geneva will remain a purely cosmetic operation. So Biden must play his cards wisely. What Putin is formally striving for is to not feel excluded from the group of major powers and at the same time to reject any lessons Washington wants to teach him on the subject of human rights. ... The American president should show a willingness to engage in dialogue without appearing weak, just as - history teaches us - President John F. Kennedy did vis-à-vis the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev sixty years ago. Back then, that meeting was the prelude to the building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban missile crisis triggered by Soviet missiles.”

Iswestija (RU) /

Solutions instead of confrontation

Both sides will address a list of concrete issues with pragmatism, Izvestia predicts:

“Even before he left for Europe, Biden was trying to sit on two chairs at the same time. He declared: 'We're not seeking conflict with Russia. We want a stable and predictable relationship', but he also said: 'The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities'. ... Since Russia categorically rejects all US accusations, there can be no question of it admitting to 'bad behaviour', only the presentation of a long list of negotiating topics on nuclear and cyber security, pandemic control, climate protection, productive cooperation in the Arctic and in space, and other global problems.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Balancing toughness and talk

Ria Novosti discusses the US's motivation for the summit:

“No one needs a summit for its own sake - neither Russia nor the United States. Biden needs to show the Americans and the world that the US is returning to the helm of the world order. If the meeting in Geneva is conducted like that in Anchorage - i.e. like the negotiations between a US and a Chinese delegation in March which resulted in a fierce exchange in front of the cameras - the White House will not score any points. The US president wants to strike a balance: he wants to show US citizens and the West that he has a hard stance on Putin, but at the same time he is capable of negotiating and conducting a dialogue.”

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

A handshake is the most we can expect

Český rozhlas does not anticipate a breakthrough in Russian-American relations:

“The Americans are seeking to make Russia's actions more predictable on the international stage, while the Russian Federation wants to regain at least the appearance of its former superpower status. Since Russia is now more of a regional power in economic terms and sees the unpredictability of its actions as an advantage, neither one nor the other will succeed. ... Expectations are lower than they have been for the last thirty years. In the end, everyone will probably just be happy when the two presidents meet, look each other in the eye and shake hands.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Perhaps there is hope

The Tages-Anzeiger recalls a historic meeting:

“Relations between the US and Russia are at a low point. The handshake in Geneva will hardly change that. However, this was also the assumption in 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan met at the Hotel Intercontinental and a conversation in front of the fireplace marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Whether Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin will also make history remains to be seen. For the time being, the US president is merely seeking a 'predictable, stable relationship' with Russia. That would be a start. And should actually also be in the interest of the troublemaker from Moscow.”