President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are likely to hold their first summit next month in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a U.S. official familiar with the issue.
The exact date of the summit was not immediately clear, but it is expected to be held around the same time that Biden is visiting Europe in mid-June to meet with NATO and European Union leaders.
The summit between Biden and Putin, however, remains tentative and plans could change. Russian media on Monday quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as indicating that the Kremlin was inclined to agree to Biden’s invitation to meet with Putin.
“In the most general terms I can say that, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has stressed more than once, we are prepared to consider and address any issues on the bilateral agenda and also to work together on settling regional problems and regional conflicts and crises,” Lavrov is quoted as saying.
Russia and the United States are at odds on numerous fronts, from cybersecurity to Russia’s war with U.S.-backed Ukraine. During a meeting last week between Lavrov and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the two parties laid out the various areas of dispute, but they also agreed there exist potential topics of cooperation, such as on how to stop climate change.
New tensions over Belarus could also factor into the summit. Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is a Putin ally facing increasing resistance to his rule. Over the weekend, Lukashenko’s government was accused of forcing down a civilian airliner traveling over his country’s airspace to arrest a dissident journalist who was on board. The act drew condemnation from the United States and many European leaders.
Geneva is a favorite location for international conferences, summits and other major gatherings. That’s in part due to Switzerland’s historic decision to be neutral in various conflicts. The country also is not a member of NATO, the military alliance that Putin has long seen as a potential threat, making it more palatable to Russia as a meeting place.
In 1985, Geneva was the site of the first meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The gathering — at which arms control was focus — helped the leaders develop a personal rapport with one another.
In 2015, Geneva was one of the cities that hosted international talks that led to the Iran nuclear deal. U.S. and Iranian officials, whose governments officially do not have diplomatic relations, hashed out the details together in the Swiss city as well as in Vienna and other places, along with representatives of several other countries.
NBC News reported the likelihood of Geneva being the summit host earlier on Monday.
The Biden administration has been considering several potential locations for the summit. Other contending cities included, but were not limited to, Vienna and Helsinki, also favored locations for international meetings.
Helsinki was less likely to be chosen than some of the other possibilities because former President Donald Trump met with Putin there in 2018. Trump at the time appeared to accept Putin’s assurances that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, despite the American intelligence community’s assessments that it did.
Trump’s deference to the Russian leader during the Helsinki summit infuriated both Democrats and Republicans.
Anita Kumar contributed to this report.