WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will go solo when he meets the press after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.
The White House said on Saturday it was still finalizing details of Biden’s meeting with Putin in Geneva on Wednesday, but that it would include a working session, a smaller session and a solo press conference.
A solo press conference is the “appropriate format” for communicating to the press the topics to be discussed at the meeting, the White House said.
Biden’s solo press conference will be a contrast to 2018, when Donald Trump and Putin stood side by side in a joint press conference after their summit in Helsinki, Finland.
Trump faced backlash after that press conference in which he appeared to accept Putin’s denial that Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Trump questioned the assessment of the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in the election and said the US bears as much blame as Russia for the tattered relationship between the two countries.
The White House then attempted to reverse those comments: Trump said he accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion of Russian interference, but insisted that “many” other people would have could also interfere in the elections.
Biden’s one-on-one meeting with Putin will follow his attendance at this weekend’s Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, England. Biden will attend a meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels on Monday and then travel to Switzerland afterwards.
The summit with Putin comes amid growing tensions between the two countries over allegations of Russian-backed hacking, human rights abuses, interference in the US elections and what the West views as a growing Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Biden’s meeting with Putin will be their first face-to-face meeting since Biden became president, but it won’t be their first meeting.
Biden referred to a visit with the Russian president in 2011 while he was Barack Obama’s vice president. According to Biden’s account, he looked Putin in the eye and proclaimed, “I don’t think you have a soul.” Putin looked back, smiled and said, “We understand each other,” according to Biden.
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In an interview broadcast on NBC News Friday, Putin called Trump a “colorful person” but said he could work with Biden. Putin said Biden is “radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man” who has spent “virtually his entire adult life in politics.”
“It is my great hope that – yes, there are advantages, disadvantages – but there will be no impulsive moves on the part of the sitting US president,” Putin said.
Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
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