US Presidents Joe Biden and Russian Vladimir Putin will meet in their first summit on June 16 in Geneva, where they will discuss a series of differences between the two countries, the following are the most prominent five of them:
* Interfering in elections
Accusations of online disinformation and cyber attacks for the purpose of election interference are at the heart of the tensions and are behind many US sanctions against Moscow, especially after the election of Donald Trump in 2016.
Recently, waves of major cyber attacks have alarmed Washington. Several operations have been attributed to Moscow or to hacker groups residing in Russia, such as Solarwinds, Colonial Pipeline and GPS.
Russia, which has long denied involvement, accuses Washington of interfering in its affairs by supporting the opposition or funding organizations and media that criticize the Kremlin.
Moscow also considers itself a victim of US cyber attacks and asserts that it wants a “global agreement” to limit the use of information weapons. It is a proposal that the Kremlin touched upon again in September 2020.
* Human rights issues
Joe Biden promised to tell Vladimir Putin that he would not stand idly by “in the face of” violations of “human rights in Russia”. It is a file that fuels the Russians’ mistrust of the Americans, as the Kremlin sees this as evidence of interference and domination.
Criticism intensified with the poisoning of the Kremlin’s most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny, in August. Since his survival, the dissident has been imprisoned, and those close to him and his organizations have been subjected to judicial attacks.
Russia questions respect for the rights of the pro-Donald Trump rioters arrested after the storming of the Capitol in January.
She also criticizes “censorship” in Hollywood or on the Internet by social networking giants. Finally, Moscow also denounces “political pressure to the point of absurdity” in the United States.
* Military Expansions
On the military front, there are many differences. In Ukraine, Syria or the Arctic, the two countries accuse each other of military expansion.
Ending a series of agreements raises fears of an acceleration of the arms race. Since 2018, Putin has been touting his “supersonic” missile model, which is even capable of thwarting current anti-aircraft defenses.
Thus, strategic balance is likely to be at the heart of the Biden-Putin talks.
From the American side, there is also emphasis on the recent deployment of about one hundred thousand Russian soldiers on the borders of Ukraine, which raised fears of an invasion of the country, which Russia stripped of Crimea in 2014.
For its part, Moscow asserts that NATO’s military maneuvers and deployment in Eastern Europe constitute the biggest regional threat.
*Expulsion of diplomats
With each wave of sanctions and counter-sanctions, the Russians and Americans intensify the expulsion of diplomats, reducing the staff of their embassies and communication channels.
This year, Moscow and Washington also recalled their ambassadors for “consultations” after Biden described the Russian president in an interview as a “murderer.”
Russia also accuses the Americans of stopping the delivery of visas to Russian diplomats. Moscow denied a NASA representative a visa in February.
The US Consulate in Moscow no longer issues visas at all due to a staff shortage after Russia banned it from hiring local staff. Services to US citizens are also under threat.
The fate of the prisoners
Finally, many prisoners hope that Putin and Biden can reach an agreement on their fate in the coming weeks or months.
Paul Whelan, who is imprisoned in Russia for espionage, called in early June for Biden to exchange him. The mother of arms smuggler Victor Bout, who is imprisoned in the United States, made an appeal to the presidents of the two countries.
The family of Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot imprisoned in America for smuggling cocaine, has also demanded his release.
Any negotiations could also include the American Trevor Reed, who is imprisoned on charges of assaulting two Russian policemen while intoxicated.