Joe Biden arrives in Geneva ahead of crunch summit with Vladimir Putin

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Biden steps off Air Force One - DENIS BALIBOUSE/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Biden steps off Air Force One - DENIS BALIBOUSE/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Joe Biden is planning to meet with Vladimir Putin with just one aide and no food for the better part of five hours, White House officials said.

The US president has intensively prepared for his first summit with his Russian counterpart in Geneva on Wednesday, which is seen back in Washington as an early test of his foreign policy.

The meeting caps off a European trip in which Mr Biden met with G7 members, Nato and EU allies to showcase western strength and solidarity.

Mr Biden praised the Russian president as a "bright", "tough" and "worthy adversary" ahead of the meeting in Villa La Grange, a stately 18th century villa overlooking Lake Geneva.

The US president has said he will raise a number of contentious issues, including cyber attacks, election interference, nuclear arms and human rights.

Swiss police patrol boats in Geneva - Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg
Swiss police patrol boats in Geneva - Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg

The two leaders will begin the talks with just their top diplomats by their sides, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, along with two translators.

An expanded meeting with six officials on each side will follow, according to a senior White House official.

The official said the summit was expected to last around four or five hours, but insisted it would be business-focused with "no breaking of bread" between the two leaders.

Mr Biden has also ruled out a joint press conference with Mr Putin. Aides say he will deliver remarks after the Russian leader instead.

It marks a stark contrast with the warm gathering between Mr Putin and Mr Biden's predecessor Donald Trump in Helsinki in 2018.

Around 3,000 security personnel are being deployed in Geneva ahead of the summit, with commuters being advised to work from home to avoid heavy traffic.

Geneva is preparing to host the summit between Russia and the US on Wednesday by putting up flags around the town - Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg
Geneva is preparing to host the summit between Russia and the US on Wednesday by putting up flags around the town - Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg

Mr Biden has carefully prepared for the meeting with extensive briefings from Russia experts, including British-born former White House adviser Fiona Hill.

Mr Biden has briefed his fellow Nato allies on what he intends to say to Mr Putin, as well as listening to their "thoughts and advice".

Despite the anticipation, both sides have played down expectations of what might be achieved during the summit.

White House officials stressed the summit was merely a chance to restart high-level communications between Moscow and Washington.

Mr Putin's top foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said: "I'm not certain any agreements will be reached."

However both countries' ambassadors will be in Geneva on Wednesday, amid hopes a deal can be reached to return them to their posts.

In a show of strength ahead of the showdown summit, the US and EU declared they were ready to respond “decisively to Russia’s repeating pattern of negative behaviour and harmful activities”.

Mr Biden held talks with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, and Charles Michel, the European Council president, in Brussels the day after a NATO summit, where leaders also fired a warning shot across Mr Putin’s bows.

“This week, at the G7, at NATO, in my meeting with the leaders of the European Union, and in all my bilateral meetings with world leaders, I’ve been making the case that the US and Europe—and democracies everywhere—are stronger when we work together to advance our shared values,” Mr Biden said.

A joint US-EU communique calls on Moscow to release all political prisoners, such as jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and end the ”continuous crackdown” on civil society and media.

Mr Michel, the European Council president, said the bloc was “entirely united” with the US in the face of an increasingly belligerent Moscow.

“We are different of course but we are at one when fighting for democracy,” said Mrs von der Leyen, who told Mr Biden that EU-Russia relations remain on a “negative spiral”.

Putin and Biden shake hands - AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
Putin and Biden shake hands - AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

The EU-US summit did result in some limited progress on transatlantic trade issues.

The sides reached a deal to suspend trade tariffs for five years ending 17 year spat over government subsidies for aircraft makers.

"Instead of fighting with one of our closest allies, we are finally coming together against a common threat," said US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

That common threat is the rapidly expanding Chinese aviation industry which Beijing hopes will start to challenge the likes of Boeing and Airbus – the two companies at the heart of the transatlantic trade dispute.

But the show of unity was undermined after negotiators failed to remove Trump era tariffs on EU steel and aluminum imports.

Meanwhile the US government unveiled its first "national strategy" to fight domestic terrorism yesterday, an effort ordered by Mr Biden after the January 6 Capitol attack.

The move reflects concerns over an increasing homegrown threat from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and anti-government extremists.

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