Biden meets Putin: Much to discuss, little chance of progress

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Summits between American and Russian (or Soviet) leaders have often delivered drama of one kind or another. In 1961, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev took advantage of an inexperienced John F. Kennedy at their Vienna summit, previewing the major tensions to come. A quarter of a century later, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev laid the groundwork for historic deals that would later de-escalate the Cold War at their first meeting in 1985 in Geneva. And in 2018, Donald Trump publicly accepted Vladimir Putin's word that Russia hadn't interfered in the 2016 US election, provoking a collective gasp in Washington. There has not been a summit since.

Now, amid elevated bilateral tensions, President Joe Biden will meet with Putin on Wednesday in Geneva. The two leaders have had a frosty relationship in the past. Yet the Biden administration has said it seeks a "stable and predictable" relationship with Russia, and the Kremlin is also hoping for some improvement. The aim of this summit is, in a basic sense, the absence of drama. Will that happen? Eurasia Group analyst Alex Brideau answers a few key questions.

What are the key points of disagreement?

Plenty, and there are no easy fixes. Biden will almost certainly bring up recent cyber incidents, including the ransomware targeting the Colonial Pipeline and meat processor JBS, which the US has said was carried out by criminal groups in Russia. Biden has blamed the Russian government for not doing enough to stop these groups. He will also want to send messages to Putin on keeping out of US elections and about the treatment of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny (something Putin will likely characterize as US interference in Russian internal affairs).

Putin will have messages of his own, particularly about the seven-year-long conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 14,000 lives. Putin, who denies Russian involvement, will want Biden to lean on the Ukrainian government for concessions that might move a peace plan forward. Moscow wants Kyiv to talk directly to the separatists and jumpstart political reconciliation with them. Biden, who supports the Ukrainian position that Russia must negotiate and make security concessions before a political settlement, will almost certainly not do this.

And where exactly can Biden and Putin cooperate?

There aren't many areas where cooperation is possible, but there are a few important ones. Both leaders want progress on nuclear arms control. They renewed the New START treaty for five years at the start of Biden's term, but there is plenty of other ground to cover. The two leaders will probably also talk about climate change, following on Putin's unexpectedly constructive speech at Biden's climate summit in April. They could also discuss use of the Arctic, where there are many disagreements, but they have an interest in avoiding escalations and want to limit Chinese influence in the region.

Does Biden or Putin have leverage to get what they want?

Neither is going to force the other into drastic changes, but they can influence each other on a case-by-case basis. Biden's power to sanction Russia is an important tool — threats to sanction can be enough to make Putin think twice about specific actions. Putin, meanwhile, can use his support and influence in reviving nuclear talks with Iran as a means to ease tensions in other areas.

How is the meeting perceived in Washington and Moscow?

The mood in Washington remains fairly hawkish toward Russia, among both Democrats and Republicans. Biden's summit initiative, to talk cooperation but to also warn Putin about punishment if he steps out of line, has faced skepticism from members of Congress who want the focus mainly on punishment and deterrence.

Russian officials have little expectation that the long list of US economic sanctions against Russia — in response to activities including interfering in US elections, military actions in Ukraine, and the poisoning of Russian dissidents — will be eased anytime soon. But there is hope that the summit could bring the temperature down a bit, by engaging on issues of common concern, thereby lowering the likelihood of another round of punishment from Washington.

Should we expect any fireworks?

If there are, they probably won't be in front of the public. Biden and Putin won't hold a joint press conference. Verbal jousting wouldn't exactly help with a "stable and predictable" relationship.

Meet Zoe Marshall, grandmother, fishmonger, and thriving business owner.;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=

When Zoe Marshall decided to switch careers in her forties and become a fishmonger, she was scared. After leaving her job of 23 years, Zoe was forced to pivot in order to keep her family's home. Despite challenges, she forged ahead, opening Sea-Licious. Accepting Visa payments in her fishmonger shop, this access to commerce helps Zoe provide convenience to her customers and confidence in their transactions. Though she's one of the only women in the fish market each morning, her business and its place in the local community are flourishing with Visa's help.

Learn more about Zoe and her story.

Listen: Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

More Show less

We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

More Show less

Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

More Show less

For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal