A “soulless” murderer whose government is “paranoid.”
This is how US President Biden used to describe his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Over the past decade, Putin has become one of the most irritating thorns in the side of the White House.
The Kremlin harmed the United States, according to Washington, by threatening to invade Ukraine, stockpiling weapons, hacking attacks, and interfering in elections.
On Wednesday, Putin and Biden meet again during their first summit in Washington amid strained ties, growing Western pressure on Moscow, and growing Russian pressure on domestic strife.
But although Putin is known for his salty language and harsh reactions, he prefers to speak about Biden cautiously, with almost flattering optimism.
“During my tenure, I have been accustomed to attack from all angles, from all areas, under all pretexts,” he said. he said Laughing on Friday, answering a NBC reporter’s question about being a “murderer.”
A week ago, Putin said that Biden was “an experienced man, I hope very balanced, very accurate. I very much hope that our meeting will be a positive key. “
Like Biden, Putin, who has met with four US presidents since 1999, has kept his expectations of the summit low.
“I do not expect any progress in Russian-American relations, nothing can silence the result for all of us,” he said.
Ukraine is by far the biggest bone of contention.
In March-early April, Putin rallied tens of thousands of troops in a closed border with Ukraine and its two pro-Russian separatist regions.
The war seemed imminent for some time before Biden called Putin on April 13, saying he would ease tensions by offering to meet with the Russian leader in Geneva at the obvious sign.
Biden knows Ukraine better than other US presidents in history. He visited the former Soviet Union six times and joked that he spent more time on the phone with then-President Petro Poroshenko than with his wife.
“Biden’s meeting with Putin will solve only one issue. “How can we not allow a real war?” Gennady Gudkov, a former Russian lawmaker who became the leader of the opposition, told Al told Azira.
However, Alexei Mukhin, who heads the Moscow-based Political Information Center, says Biden will avoid discussing Ukraine over his son Hunter’s secret work at a Ukrainian energy company that fueled former President Donald Trump pressure on Ki led to Trump’s first impeachment.
“Joe Biden will not raise the issue of Ukraine because of certain corrupt circumstances surrounding his son,” Mukhin told Al Jazeera.
From the North Pole to Damascus
Mukhin believes that two distant places, Artich and Syria, will dominate the talks as possible areas of cooperation.
For the next two years, Moscow presides over the people of the Arctic Council countries bordering the region, where melting ice opens up new sea lanes that could compete with the Malacca Strait in the Suez Canal.
Western sanctions against Western Russia included a ban on the export of offshore drilling technology to Russia in the Arctic, which contains up to 90 billion barrels of oil and natural gas reserves that exceed Qatar’s proven reserves.
At the same time, Moscow is stepping up its military presence in the Arctic, despite six months of night and nine months of winter, as the region provides the shortest route from Russia to North America for ballistic missiles, or vice versa.
“We are concerned about recent military action in the Arctic,” said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in mid-May.
On Syria, Moscow has astonished the world with its military intervention to save President Bashar al-Assad. Հասկանում Washington understands that only cooperation with Moscow will help resolve the conflict.
Some analysts welcome the fact that Putin will sacrifice Assad if the West guarantees not to undermine Moscow’s new influence in the warring nation.
“Russia is likely to sacrifice Assad’s presidency, but only in exchange for maintaining some influence in Syria,” Lina Khatib, director of the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa program, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine on June 9.
However, one of Russia’s most knowledgeable experts on the Middle East disagrees.
“Who will benefit from the discussion?” [on the region]? This is not a major issue, but a secondary one, “Alexei Malashenko, a resident of Moscow, told Al Jazeera.
Putin’s foreign minister meets his leader’s low expectations of the summit; he uses a metaphor to describe the possibility of restoring bilateral ties.
“You need two for tango. “But if someone dances, everything will be more difficult,” Lavrov said at a youth conference on June 9.
Lavrov noted that one of the cornerstones of the global nuclear weapons control architecture, which Moscow and Washington have maintained for decades, may be the resumption of cooperation.
The Kremlin has long been concerned about NATO’s Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Romania, Poland, and Soviet-era satellites in Russia.
The United States has said the system is designed to prevent a nuclear threat from Iran, but Moscow believes the system could be upgraded to fire long-range Tomahawk missiles at Russia.
Moscow wants to regularly inspect facilities on the Aegean coast, allow NATO to test its short-range Iskander missiles in Russia’s westernmost Baltic region of Kaliningrad.
“We invite you to visit the Kaliningrad region to see the Iskanders, and in return we want our experts to visit the missile defense bases being set up in Romania and Poland,” Lavrov said.
Experts say the demand is nothing more than a game of hill kings to boost Moscow’s prestige.
“This is a direct path to what Russia has been unsuccessfully striving for since the 1990s. “The status of an equal guarantor of the security of the United States,” said Pavel Luzin, of the Russia-based Amastown Foundation think tank in Russia, told Al Jazeera.
He said Biden was unlikely to allow inspections, but could promise not to install Tomahawks, which is technically impossible to begin with.
“There may be a slight exchange of statements to at least present something positive during the summit,” Luzin said.