Putin and Biden will meet in the library

The villa where Reagan and Gorbachev met was recently sold to the Chinese

The Swiss named the place where the meeting of the presidents of Russia and the United States will take place on June 16: like 36 years ago, during the first Soviet-American summit, the choice fell not on a hotel or a conference hall, but on a historic mansion overlooking the lake. Villa La Grange is part of the Geneva library and has one of the largest collections of old books, including several dozen incunabula. Putin and Biden, of course, will not have time to read, but the pacifying atmosphere, the organizers hope, will have a beneficial effect on the atmosphere of the summit.

Imposing, elegant, famous … Russian and foreign media do not skimp on epithets when describing the venue of the summit. The Swiss Foreign Ministry itself used the English word “iconic” in its announcement about the choice of the villa “La Grange”, i.e. iconic. However, this place is still significant for the Swiss themselves: the building is surrounded by a huge public park and contains an interesting collection of old books collected by the intellectual, friend of Sismondi, Schlegel and Madame de Stael Guillaume Favre. In 1917, his descendant donated the mansion to the authorities of Geneva, and a year later 15 thousand volumes dated from the 15th – 19th centuries were transferred to their property.

The organizers expect that the furnishings of the villa, the historical premises of which are designed in the Empire style, will create a special atmosphere for the meeting. A view of Lake Geneva will allow you to calm down and be distracted if negotiations escalate into heated arguments and leaders lose their temper. 36 years ago, when Reagan and Gorbachev met in another Geneva villa – “Fleur d’Eau” – a lighted fireplace was also used to “defuse” the situation. But on June 16, forecasters promise 29-30 degrees of heat in Geneva, so a fireplace will definitely not help business. By the way, “Fleur d’Eau” could also qualify for the summit, if not for one spicy detail – a couple of years ago it was sold to the Chinese for the placement of the Confucius Institute. The Swiss media see this as a special symbolism and a transparent allusion to the change of eras and the main adversary of the United States, which is now not Russia, but the all-powerful powerful China, although the White House does not officially recognize this.

How exactly the historic interiors of “La Grange” will be adapted to receive Putin and Biden, the Geneva authorities did not say – this is the responsibility of the protocol and security services of the two countries. The park has already been closed to the public and surrounded by a wire fence. A temporary pavilion is under construction nearby, in which, most likely, an inspection and inspection will be carried out. The changes also affected public transport routes: it is no longer possible to get to the villa and the adjacent part of Lake Geneva. The American delegation, as local media write, is likely to be accommodated in the Intercontinental hotel near the UN headquarters (by the way, in the same place as 36 years ago), the Russian delegation – in the Mandarin Oriental on the banks of the Rhone. However, Vladimir Putin, unlike Biden, is not going to spend the night in Geneva in any case. As Dmitry Peskov said, the president will go to negotiations on June 16 and plans to return on the same day. Neither Moscow nor the White House still has any special expectations from the summit. A breakthrough is not to be expected, but the very fact of the meeting of the leaders of the nuclear powers is important.

It should be noted that the use of villas and historic mansions for high-level meetings is not exclusively the prerogative of Russia and the United States. When a special atmosphere is needed and extra ears are not needed, this is an old diplomatic trick: in the quiet of ancient estates, more than a dozen treaties and agreements were signed. Vladimir Putin himself has repeatedly conducted negotiations in such an atmosphere. In particular, Silvio Berlusconi received the Russian president in his villas “Certosa” and “Jernetto”, in Finland he stayed at the villa “Kultaranta”, built in the style of northern romanticism, with Sauli Niiniste. In 2018, Merkel invited Putin to an estate with apple and pear trees near Berlin, which is rented by the federal government. And Emmanuel Macron held talks with the Russian leader on wooden folding chairs in the patio of the Fort Bregancon summer residence.

Villa La Grange in Geneva: Putin and Biden will meet in “Paradise”


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Published in the newspaper “Moskovsky Komsomolets” No. 28557 of June 11, 2021

Newspaper headline:
Putin and Biden will meet in the library

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