Brussels and Geneva (CNN)President Joe Biden is using time away from summit meetings on his European tour this week for intense preparations ahead of his talks with Vladimir Putin, according to officials, as he works to avoid the pitfalls his predecessors faced in showdowns with the Russian leader.
Most of his formal meetings this week have started after noon, leaving his mornings free for consultations with advisers. He has held lengthy preparation sessions with senior officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, to discuss the wide range of issues he plans to bring up with Putin, from cyberattacks to Syria to Ukraine.
The President has also asked foreign leaders at the G7, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for their input as he prepares for the meeting in Geneva, according to people familiar with the conversations. Putin even came up as a point of conversation during his tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, Biden told reporters, saying she “wanted to know” about the Russian President.
Given some NATO allies had expressed concern about the optics of Biden’s summit with Putin, Sullivan said Biden would speak privately with leaders “about what he intends to talk to Putin about” during a meeting of the defense alliance on Monday. “He gets to hear from them as well, so that he will go into Geneva with the full support and solidarity of all of our NATO allies,” Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One Sunday, specifically highlighting Biden’s meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday as a chance to “compare notes.”
“Every world leader here that’s a member of NATO thanked me for meeting with Putin now. Every single one,” Biden said Monday in Brussels where he was attending a summit of the defense alliance. He said he’d found “a consensus and they thanked me for being willing to talk with them about the meeting and what I intended to do.”
The US President struck a tough tone while fielding questions from reporters after meeting with the alliance as well as a number of leaders one-on-one. NATO members, he said, must root out corruption and “guard against those who would stoke hatred and division for political gain as phony populism.”
It’s all part of the tense lead-up to Biden’s first sit-down with an American adversary during his time in office, and the scene in Switzerland is beginning to reflect the mood within the White House
Security in Geneva is tightening ahead of the Wednesday summit. Parc La Grange, a park inside Geneva with an 18th century villa where the two leaders will be holding their meetings, has been completely closed to the public since last week and will remain so until at least Friday. Barbed wire has been set up along the perimeter of the park as well as along the street in some areas leading up to the park’s entrance.
As Biden becomes the fifth straight American president with whom Putin has met, officials want Biden to be prepared for Putin’s tactics, including his well-known habit of turning discussions of Russia’s bad practices back on the United States. Biden has told aides he believes Putin will respond to directness during their talks and wants to be ready to offer a frank message.
“He’s overprepared!” Biden’s wife, first lady Jill Biden, exclaimed last week when asked whether her husband was primed for his meeting with Putin.
Along with Merkel, Biden has opened the door for input to other key allies in bilateral meetings and conversations on the margins over the last several days. The idea serves dual purposes, aides said: While Biden’s decades in foreign policy give him a self-assurance about his approach, he sees value in the views of others w
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