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Political experts weigh-in ahead of Biden and Putin’s summit

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – On Wednesday morning, President Joe Biden made his final preparations before his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

At 7 a.m. Eastern, the two will sit down for their face-to-face meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The two leaders are planning to meet at a lakeside villa.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will also be at the summit. The time frame for the meeting is widely reported to last four to five hours. Unless something changes during the conversation, the presidents will not hold a joint news conference afterward. Instead, Putin and Biden are poised to hold their own news briefings individually.

Biden has said this week that he agrees with Putin that relations between Russia and the United States are at a low point. Leaders around the world are watching both Biden’s approach and the meeting.

So far, Biden has been more stern than his predecessors. Political science experts are debating whether that is the right move, however, most agree that showing strength in democracy is what the U.S. needs to do.

“The importance of this meeting is for Biden to assert himself on the global stage and undermine Putin’s importance on the global stage. And by that, I mean that Putin has been able to define the narrative of Russia’s place in the world. That Russia is strong. That the US is in decline,” said Regina Smyth, a political science professor at Indiana University. “And I think Biden is there after the NATO and G7 summit to say ‘No, we are back.’ Our allies together unified to send a different message to Putin.”

Smyth is keeping a close eye on the meeting and said Biden will likely convey both the U.S. goals and our allies’ messages from recent meetings to Putin.

Smyth expects Biden to push for nuclear arms control and bring up the new issue of cybersecurity. That’s an area where she thinks there could be progress because the United States has the upper hand and Putin would like to be seen as a broker of an agreement on an international stage.

“On the cyber attacks, I think Biden would very much like to curb them. And I think he will warn Putin that if he doesn’t stop, the U.S. capacity to launch similar attacks, the U.S. capacity to launch better shields will be deployed,” said Smyth.

Human rights issues will also likely be at the forefront. This is an area where Putin has historically and recently been in the wrong. Smyth said because Putin’s party faces reelection in September, mixed with the fact that both he and the party are not very popular at the moment, means Putin will want to look strong coming out of this meeting.

Biden will be focused on highlighting the truth and dampening any misinformation.

“The most important thing now is to introduce reality into the global understanding of Russia and Putin and illustrate his constraints. And also illustrates the cost of him staying in power for 21 years already and potentially another 16 to 18 years. And that cost has been Russian development,” said Smyth.

Smyth said Biden and Putin’s separate press conferences are a good way for the U.S. to hold onto the narrative. She also points out that people need to remain patient because it is unlikely there will be any sudden breakthroughs or changes out of the meeting.

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