The most memorable US and Russia summit moments in history

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Who blinks first? Presidents Putin and Obama stare at each other in a meeting in China (Getty)
Who blinks first? Presidents Putin and Obama stare at each other in a meeting in China (Getty)

As Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin meet in Switzerland, it is the latest high-level conference between the two superpowers.

From Finland to Yalta, US and leaders from Russia and the Soviet Union have met in the last 75 years, with some of the conferences shaping global politics.

Others have proved less historically important, but equally as jaw-dropping.

July 2018: Helsinki, Finland – Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin

At a time when Putin was accused of interfering in the 2016 US Presidential election, Trump sent out eye-catching messages by expressing his admiration for the Russian leader. The US President sidestepped questions about Russian incursions in Ukraine, allegations of human rights abuses and warnings about cyberattacks by the Kremlin on the US and its allies. Asked at a press conference if Putin had meddled in the US election, Trump showed a childlike faith in the Russian leader’s words. “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump told reporters.

September 2016: Hangzhou, China - Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin

This meeting will always be remembered as the summit of the ice-cold stare. Presidents Obama and Putin swapped glares at a time deteriorating relations between US and Russia at this summit, held on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in China. The US leader wanted to improve cooperation over missile defence systems to try to find a solution to the civil war in Syria. It was not to be. “Candid, blunt and businesslike,” was how Obama described the meeting after the two men had said their goodbyes.

June 2001: Lubjana, Slovenia - George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin

Something of a love-in as US-Russian summits go, Bush later said of Putin: "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul." In the wake of 9/11 a few months later, Putin reached out to offer Bush help to combat international terrorism. The Russian leader was one of the first foreign leaders to do so. Bush valued this. He later visited Bush at his ranch in Texas and the pair were pictured driving around in a pick-up truck.

US President Ronald Reagan talks to Soviet general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev (AFP via Getty Images)
US President Ronald Reagan talks to Soviet general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev (AFP via Getty Images)

October 1986: Reykjavik, Iceland - Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev

Behind the smiles and jokes, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev struck up a chemistry which surprised many, especially as the US President famously referred to the Soviet Union as the ‘Evil Empire’. The friendliness established in Switzerland proved essential for the leaders of the world superpowers to agree a thaw in the Cold War. On the table was the key issue of how to bring nuclear weapons under control and better international relations after years of bitter rivalry. A year later, both countries signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in Washington.

February 1945: Yalta, Crimea - Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin

As the Second World War drew to a close, this Soviet resort town on the Black Sea was the setting for a meeting between the US President, Stalin and Winston Churchill to try to find ways to speed up the end of the war and rebuild Europe after the conflict was over. However, it has since been interpreted as the start of the Cold War which dominated the continent for the next 45 years. Stalin successfully persuaded the leaders of the two Allied countries to establish ‘spheres of influence’ in Eastern Europe, which meant large parts of the continent came under the direct control of Moscow.

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