President Joe Biden convenes the highest-stakes talks of his long career Wednesday when he joins Russia’s Vladimir Putin for a summit, an encounter set to test his decades of experience on the world stage and lay down an early marker of his diplomatic skills.
Depending on its outcome, the meeting could shadow Biden as he returns home to help revive his domestic agenda. He’ll arrive to the 18th-century villa on Lake Geneva, a stunning summit site, bolstered by support from western allies he spent the past week consulting ahead of his face-to-face with the Russian President.
In Biden’s telling, those leaders all backed him in his decision to meet Putin now, in the first six months of his presidency, before he’s had a chance to fully formulate a Russia strategy.
“He’s bright, he’s tough, and I’ve found that he is, as they say when I used to play ball, a worthy adversary,” Biden told reporters of Putin on Monday during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, where he solicited advice from fellow leaders with experience dealing with Putin.
Still, skepticism abounds that anything can be accomplished. At its worse, Biden’s summit could provide elevated stature to a leader who appears intent on testing the limits of international norms and the willingness of the West to respond.
Expectations for the summit are also low among American officials, who have said since the encounter was first announced they didn’t think anything concrete would emerge from it.
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