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White House Defends Putin Summit

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The White House Monday endorsed the upcoming summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that, despite concerns from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, doubts about Russia’s trustworthiness and a possible lack of realistic policy objectives, the leaders of the two countries should still meet in person.

National security advisor Jake Sullivan said at a White House press briefing that, regardless of who the world leader is, there is “no substitute for face-to-face engagement in any dynamic.” Sullivan added that Putin, specifically, is a certain type of “personalized leader” and has “a highly personalized style of decision-making,” thereby making a phone conversation less impactful. 

Sullivan also explained why the meeting would take place on June 16th in Geneva, since it will be at the end of Biden’s first foreign trip as president, which will include meetings with U.S. allies in the Group of Seven, NATO and the E.U. Sullivan added that it has been a “busy time” with Russia, specifically regarding the New START treaty extension, sanctions for election interference, the SolarWinds espionage operation, ransomware cyberattacks and a build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. 

Zelensky criticized Biden over the weekend for his waiving of sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, and urged Biden to meet with him prior to meeting with Putin. Biden assured Zelensky that they would meet over the summer and that he would “stand up firmly for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and its aspirations” when meeting with Putin.

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