At meetings of the Group of 7 and NATO, he discussed the upcoming summit with at least two dozen foreign leaders, from the German chancellor to the leaders of the small Baltic states to the right-wing Polish president. He was even questioned about the meeting of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain over tea at Windsor Castle.
“He’s brilliant, he’s tough, and I’ve found he is, as they say when I played ball, a worthy opponent,” Biden told Putin reporters on Monday at a press conference at headquarters. of NATO. The event was delayed by nearly three hours as Biden encountered an onslaught of fellow leaders eager for an audience with the new US leader.
He declined to say what he would specifically communicate to Putin during their talks, which are expected to start at noon. Instead, he provided a general overview of his message and insisted that a face-to-face meeting is necessary to bring some degree of stability to US-Russian relations.
“I have a very different point of view from my predecessor”
Before leaving Brussels, Biden arrived at a summit with European Union leaders which officials said would focus primarily on trade issues. Biden has yet to roll back Trump-era tariffs on steel and aluminum and there remains a dispute over how much US and EU subsidies are given to giant aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus.
The two sides were expected to announce a resolution to the aircraft dispute and report progress on metals tariffs without formally announcing their suspension for the time being.
Biden is eager to reestablish transatlantic ties on his European tour this week, hoping to enter the high-stakes summit with Putin appearing united with his Western allies. These are mostly statements of support, but the trade dispute settlement is a concrete signal of his intention to normalize traditional US alliances after four years of tension.
“America is back. We are determined – we are never completely gone – but we reaffirm the fact that it is extremely in the interests of the United States to have a great relationship with NATO and with the EU, ”said Biden as the talks began. “I have a very different point of view than my predecessor. “
Her message was greeted by her hosts, the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
“The past four years have not been easy,” said von der Leyen.
Officials want to ease trade tensions ahead of Biden’s meeting with Putin to build a united front against Moscow. It is likely that he will also discuss his agenda for the Putin summit with European leaders.
Biden has opened the door to other key allies in bilateral meetings and side conversations over the past few days. The idea serves a dual purpose, aides said: While Biden’s decades of foreign policy give him reassurance in his approach, he sees value in the views of others who have had meetings. similar with the Russian leader.
Biden also sees merit in the Allies feeling a part of his process as he strives to reassure them of his intentions while bringing them closer. It’s part of a clear American effort to arrive at Putin’s meeting after public displays of unity among Western allies, according to a person familiar with the process.
“All the world leaders here in NATO have thanked me for meeting Putin now. Everyone, ”Biden said in Brussels after attending a defense alliance summit. He said he had found “a consensus and they thanked me for agreeing to speak with them about the meeting and what I intended to do”.
Looking for a predictable relationship
But officials said Biden is also preparing to discuss areas of potential mutual interest with Putin, laying out a potential path to evolve a relationship he said was at an all-time low on Sunday. There are obvious issues, ranging from Afghanistan and the Iran nuclear deal to the nuclear capabilities of the two nations, where communication and a working relationship are seen as essential.
There are also additional steps Biden can come up with to establish a baseline between a new administration and a longtime foe, a person familiar with the preparation said. The goal is not a dramatic breakthrough, and Biden and his assistants have been careful to make it clear that there is no such thing.
As Biden becomes the fifth consecutive U.S. president Putin has met, officials want Biden to be prepared for the Russian leader’s tactics, including his well-known habit of turning talks of Russia’s bad practices on the United States. Biden told his assistants he believed Putin would respond to the frankness during their talks and that he wanted to be prepared to deliver a frank message.
Biden does not plan to hold a joint press conference with Putin after the summit, choosing to speak to reporters solo instead. Officials say Russia has been pushing for a joint press conference during summit talks. But the United States resisted because it did not want to give Putin a platform like he had after a summit with President Donald Trump in Helsinki.
Officials also said they were aware of Putin’s desire to make it seem like he got the better of a US president and that they wanted to avoid a situation that escalates into a coup-tat unfolding in public.
“This is not a contest as to who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass themselves,” Biden said on Sunday, explaining the decision.
Biden will meet with Putin in two sessions, one with a small group and the other with a larger contingent of assistants, according to a White House official.
The exact composition of each meeting was still being worked out with the Russians, although Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are expected to attend.
A Kremlin spokesman told Russian state media on Tuesday that it was possible for the two leaders to meet face-to-face.
“As to whether the presidents will want to step down and have a real one-on-one meeting, I don’t know, it depends on them,” the Kremlin spokesman said.