After the messages of unity with the allies of the G7 and NATO, the tête-à-tête with Vladimir Poutin: Joe Biden arrived in Switzerland on Tuesday on the eve of a meeting which promises to be particularly delicate with his counterpart Russian, whom he called a "killer" in the spring.
The American president landed in Geneva in the afternoon after a long tour to reassure Washington's great allies and to hammer home that the United States was back at the table of multilateralism: G7 in England, summit of the NATO and with the European Union in Brussels.
“Our alliance is strong.
NATO is united and the United States is back, ”summed up Biden before leaving Brussels, where the two major economic blocs were able to agree on a truce to settle the 17-year-old Airbus / Boeing conflict, which poisoned their relationships.
With regard to the strongman of the Kremlin, the tenant of the White House has adopted a resolutely firm tone in recent days, promising to say bluntly what are his "red lines".
"We are not looking for conflict with Russia, but we will respond if Russia continues its activities," he warned.
Highlight of his first trip abroad, this summit is fraught with challenges for Joe Biden.
He is the fifth American president that Vladimir Putin will meet since he came to power at the end of 1999.
No big announcements expected
In an interview with the American channel NBC, the latter said he hoped that the Democratic president was less impulsive than his Republican predecessor. But he also took the opportunity to underline how much Donald Trump was, according to him, a "talented" man.
Ukraine, Belarus, fate of the imprisoned Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny, cyberattacks: the subjects of contention are numerous and the discussions promise to be bitter and difficult.
The White House has voluntarily set the bar low enough: no big announcements to expect but a long-term objective: to make relations between the two countries more "stable and predictable".
At the G7 summit in Cornwall, Joe Biden even hinted at a form of fatalism too.
"Because he is Putin," he replied to a question about the ineffectiveness of warnings and sanctions against Moscow.
From Vladimir Putin's point of view, experts agree that he has already had what he wanted: the holding of the summit as an illustration of the importance of Russia, his leitmotif for two decades in power.
Host of this summit, Swiss President Guy Parmelin wants to hope.
“The world has behind it 18 months of a pandemic that has hit it terribly.
The meeting in Geneva represents a chance for the presidents of the United States and Russia to infuse a little more optimism, a little more hope in world politics, ”he said during a speech. press briefing, following an interview with Biden.
The two leaders will each speak on their own Wednesday at the end of their meeting, no joint press conference is planned.
The one that followed the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July 2018 is still in everyone's minds in Washington.
In a strange exercise, which had sparked an uproar even within his camp, the Republican president seemed to place more value on the words of the former KGB strongman than on the unanimous conclusions of the American intelligence agencies on the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Joe Biden and Vladimir Poutine will meet at Villa La Grange, a magnificent 18th century building, located in the heart of the city and its largest park with a breathtaking view of Lake Geneva.
According to the Kremlin, the talks, which will start at 1 p.m., are expected to last between 4 and 5 hours.
On the program: a meeting in a reduced format (the American and Russian presidents as well as the American and Russian heads of diplomacy, Antony Blinken and Sergey Lavrov), before an enlarged working session.
The city is under tight security, but a very small group of demonstrators wanted to support Alexeï Navalny, now imprisoned after having almost died of poisoning that he accuses the Kremlin of having fomented.
Many of them wore “Free Navalny” t-shirts and chanted “Russia without Putin”.