Biden and Putin meet - but expect few gains and little easing of tensions

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports on the high-profile talks from Geneva


Rarely has a US/Russia summit engendered such low expectations, and the reality is that even these are likely to be disappointed.

"We expect no deliverables," say Biden’s people, diplomatic-speak for “don’t hold your breath”. 

There are no ambitions to “reset” relations with Moscow - Obama tried that and look where it got him - rather to look Putin in the eye and let him know that there is a new man in the White House, and this one does not trust the Kremlin more than his own intelligence agencies.

The Russians too are pretty clear they expect nothing substantial. 


'It's always better to meet face to face' - Biden and Putin sat for a busy photo opportunity


They also concede that relations are as bad as they have been since the end of the Cold War, and not about to get any better. 

There will be no joint press conference, no summit dinner, no “breaking of bread”. 

Washington is already concerned that even the fact of meeting here on the shores of Lake Geneva might appear to be rewarding President Putin, so they are determined to give him the minimum possible.

For Biden the build-up to Geneva has involved a lot of laying the ground-work with allies. 

He comes here fresh from the NATO and EU/US summits in Brussels in which he discussed with the Europeans how he should handle the Putin meeting, and asked specifically for their input.

President Biden addresses servicemen and women in the UK. Credit: PA

If there’s one takeaway from his six day European tour it is that for Washington, "the West is back". 

After four years in which Trump seemed almost to go out of his way to trash seven decades of US diplomacy and alliance building, Biden has started the process of binding allies back together again. 

It became clear at the NATO meeting that no longer will one half of Europe peak of "the need to confront", while the other wanted "re-engagement".


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In the five hours or so the two men will spend together on Wednesday, sometimes with teams of officials, sometimes with nothing more than interpreters in the room, that will be Biden’s message to Putin. 

Yes, we want better relations. 

If relations can’t be better, at least we should work to make them stable. 

But if you continue to move against your neighbours, persecute or kill opponents at home, enable cyber attacks against us, or disrupt our democracies, you will face a response from a Western alliance that acts and speaks with one voice.