A “soulless” “killer” whose government is “paranoid.”
This is what US President Joe Biden previously described to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the past decade, Putin has become one of the most irritating thorns in the White House.
According to Washington, the Kremlin’s threats to invade Ukraine, armaments, hacking, and election interference have annoyed and angered the United States.
Putin and Biden will once again hold their first summit in Geneva on Wednesday, amid tensions, increasing Western pressure on Moscow, and Russia’s growing repression of domestic dissidents.
But although Putin is known for his vulgar language and harsh response to barbs, he prefers to talk about Biden with a cautious, almost flattering optimism.
“During my tenure, I have become accustomed to attacks from all angles, fields, and excuses,” he said. Say Smiled on Friday to answer NBC reporters’ questions about becoming a “killer.”
A week ago, Putin said that Biden “is an experienced person. I hope that he is very balanced and very accurate. I very much hope that our meeting will be positive.”
Like Biden, Putin, who has met with four US presidents since 1999, has also kept low expectations for the summit.
He said: “I don’t want any breakthrough in Russia-US relations. No result will leave us all dumbfounded.”
Ukraine is by far the biggest focus of controversy.
In March and early April, Putin assembled tens of thousands of soldiers on the annexed Crimea, the border between Russia and Ukraine, and two pro-Russian separatist regions.
For a while, war seemed imminent—until Biden called Putin on April 13 to tell him to ease the tension and offer to meet in Geneva, which was clearly a nod to the Russian leader.
Biden knows Ukraine better than other US presidents in history-he visited the former Soviet country six times and joked that he spent more time on the phone with the then president Poroshenko than with his wife.
“The meeting between Biden and Putin can only solve one problem-how to not allow a real war,” former Russian lawmaker and opposition leader Gennady Gudkov told Al Jazeera.
However, Alexei Mukhin, the head of the Moscow-based Political Information Center, insisted that Biden would avoid discussing Ukraine issues because his son Hunter had a comfortable job at a Ukrainian energy company, which triggered Former President Donald Trump’s pressure on Kiev, in turn, led to Trump’s first impeachment.
“Joe Biden will not promote the topic of Ukraine because of certain corruption related to his son,” Muhin told Al Jazeera.
From the Arctic to Damascus
Muhin believes that two remote locations—the Arctic and Syria—will dominate the talks as possible areas of cooperation.
For the next two years, Moscow will assume the rotating presidency of the Arctic Council. These countries border the region, and melting ice has opened up new sea routes that may compete with the Suez Canal and the Strait of Malacca.
Western sanctions against Crimea include a ban on the export of offshore drilling technology. Russia needs to obtain its share of the Arctic bonanza, which contains as many as 90 billion barrels of oil and natural gas reserves, exceeding the proven reserves of Qatar.
At the same time, despite the six-month night and nine-month winter, Moscow is still strengthening its military presence in the Arctic, because the region provides the shortest route for ballistic missiles from Russia to North America— —Or the opposite.
“We are concerned about some recent military activities in the Arctic,” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken said in mid-May.
Regarding Syria, Moscow’s military intervention to rescue President Bashar al-Assad shocked the world. Washington understands that only cooperation with Moscow can help resolve the conflict.
Some analysts are optimistic that Putin will sacrifice Assad if the West promises not to cannibalize Moscow’s new influence in this war-torn country.
“Russia may accept the sacrifice of Assad’s presidency, but only if it maintains a certain degree of influence for itself in Syria,” said Lina Khatib, director of the Chatham Institute’s Middle East and North Africa Project. Written in “Foreign Policy” magazine on June 9.
However, one of Russia’s most knowledgeable experts on the Middle East disagreed.
“Who will benefit from the discussion [on the region]? This is not a major issue, but a secondary issue,” Alexei Malashenko, based in Moscow, told Al Jazeera.
Putin’s foreign minister responded to his boss’s low expectations for the summit—and used a metaphor to describe the possibility of resuming bilateral relations.
“One slap won’t make a sound. But if someone breakdancing, things will be more complicated,” Sergei Lavrov said at a youth conference on June 9.
Lavrov mentioned one of the cornerstones of the global nuclear arms control architecture that Moscow and Washington have maintained for decades-which may lead to new cooperation.
The Kremlin has long been worried about NATO’s Aegis shore-based missile defense system in Romania and Poland, which is a Russian Soviet-era satellite.
The United States claims that the system is designed to prevent a nuclear threat from Iran, but Moscow believes that the system may be upgraded to launch long-range Tomahawk missiles at Russia.
Moscow is eager to conduct regular inspections of the Aegis facilities on the shore and will allow NATO to inspect its short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, Russia’s westernmost Baltic region.
Lavrov said: “We invite you to visit the Kaliningrad region and see the Iskander people. In return, we hope our experts will visit the missile defense bases established in Romania and Poland.”
But experts say that this demand is nothing more than a tough guy game to enhance Moscow’s prestige.
“This is a direct route that Russia has been unsuccessful since the 1990s-the status of European security guarantors is the same as that of the United States,” said Pavel Luzin, an analyst at the Jamestown Foundation in Russia. Washington DC told Al Jazeera.
He said that Biden is unlikely to allow inspections-but may promise not to install Tomahawks, which is technically impossible.
Luzin said: “There may be some exchange of statements during the summit, at least to put forward some positive things.”