President Biden is preparing to take a tough approach with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he will meet in person on Wednesday in Geneva.
In comments on Monday, Biden insisted he is “not looking for conflict with Russia,” but his administration’s policies do not reflect that. Since coming into office, Biden has imposed a wide array of sanctions on Russia, expelled Russian diplomats, sent military shipments to Ukraine, and sailed warships into the Black Sea.
Most of the US action against Russia is framed as retaliation for “Russian aggression.” But the US always fails to provide evidence for the things it accuses Russia of doing, like the hack of the software company SolarWinds.
In an interview with NBC that aired Monday, Putin pointed out the lack of evidence for most US accusations against Russia. “Where is the evidence? Where is the proof? It’s becoming farcical,” he said.
Speaking after a NATO summit in Brussels, Biden threatened a response if the alleged activity from Russia continues. “We will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities and that we will not fail to defend the Transatlantic Alliance or stand up for democratic values,” he said.
World leaders typically hold joint press conferences after meetings, but on Saturday, US officials said Biden and Putin would not be holding one after the summit. Biden will speak to the press alone. The idea is that the Biden administration wants to avoid a repeat of the 2018 Helsinki summit when President Trump downplayed claims of Russian election interference.
The White House has been downplaying expectations for the summit. “We’re not expecting to have a huge outcome from this,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week.
One thing Biden and Putin agree on is that US-Russia relations are at their lowest point in decades. Despite the dangerous path the world’s largest nuclear-armed powers are on, the Biden administration doesn’t seem interested in a diplomatic breakthrough.
An area where Biden has said he’s willing to work with Putin is on arms control. Besides agreeing to extend New START, Biden has not made any progress in arms control. His administration recently informed Russia that the US would not rejoin Open Skies, a mutual surveillance treaty the Trump administration withdrew from last year.