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Biden and Putin Begin Marathon Summit in Geneva

Both sides have dampened expectations ahead of the hourslong meeting.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Russian and American flags fly.
Russian and American flags fly on a bridge prior to a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 15. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. President Joe Biden meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Israel bombs Gaza in retaliation for arson balloon attacks, and a new lead prosecutor begins work at the International Criminal Court. 

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.S. President Joe Biden meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Israel bombs Gaza in retaliation for arson balloon attacks, and a new lead prosecutor begins work at the International Criminal Court. 

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Biden and Putin Meet in Geneva

U.S. President Joe Biden caps a densely packed European tour with a final marathon summit as he joins Russian President Vladimir Putin at a villa on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, for a day of discussions on points of conflict (and some of cooperation) between the two rivals.

Expectations for any breakthrough are low. As FP’s Amy Mackinnon wrote in her preview of the summit: “Don’t call it a reset.” In Biden’s (solo) post-summit press conference, expect the goal of a “stable and predictable relationship” with Russia to join the Biden administration’s well-worn incantations of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and a championing of the “rules-based international order.”

Although the meeting is Biden’s first one-on-one meeting as president, their previous meetings have been less than harmonious. FP’s Michael Hirsh charted the development of their relationship from a first meeting in 2001 to a 2011 discussion where Biden told Putin he “doesn’t have a soul” to Biden assenting when asked whether he thought Putin was a “killer” in a recent televised interview. In a sign Putin is not in a mood to cause drama, the Russian leader said he couldn’t remember Biden’s 2011 comment when asked about it in a recently aired NBC interview. For his part, Biden has labeled Putin “a worthy adversary” ahead of today’s meeting.

The grievances. On top of personal history, the United States has plenty of geopolitical flash points to address: Russian interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections, Russia’s approach to Ukraine, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and humanitarian access concerns there, ongoing cyber and ransomware attacks, and its treatment of dissidents like Alexei Navalny.

The green shoots. Still, there are areas ripe for cooperation. Both countries agreed to extend the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, putting limits on each other’s deployed nuclear arsenals soon after Biden took office, and they could continue discussions on future arms control agreements. Those weapons could include cyber capabilities as Russia pushes for a deal that covers all new weapons systems, from missiles to cyber and space weapons.

What Putin wants. As Alexander Gabuev observed in Foreign Policy, Moscow is likely to prefer a period of de-escalation in tensions as it approaches its own political transition. Although Putin is safe in the presidency for at least the next decade, a new ruling team is likely to be established in 2024, and popular discontent within the country may become harder to control as its fossil fuel dependent economy adjusts to the prevalence of greener energy sources on the global market.

Speaking to NBC, Putin said he would welcome his successor, even if the two did not see eye to eye. “If I see an individual, even if he is critical of some of my activities, but I see that the individual … is faithful to the country … whatever his attitude towards me is, I would do everything to support such people,” Putin said.

What We’re Following Today

The Israel-Gaza cease-fire breaks. Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday morning in response to what Israeli officials described as “incendiary devices” attached to balloons that floated into Israeli territory from the Palestinian enclave. No casualties have been reported. Hamas had threatened retaliation over a provocative march by far-right Israelis through Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday, where hundreds chanted “Death to Arabs.”

The renewed Israeli bombings come as support for Hamas has undergone a “dramatic” shift. According to a recent poll, 53 percent of Palestinians now see Hamas as the “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people” while only 14 percent of those surveyed held Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in the same esteem.

The ICC’s new leader. Karim Khan begins his nine-year term as the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor today, replacing the outgoing Fatou Bensouda. Khan, a British citizen, inherits a host of ongoing cases—from a war crimes investigation into actions by the Israeli military and Hamas to probing U.S. and Taliban activities in the Afghan war. Bensouda’s final act was to open an investigation into extrajudicial killings during the Philippine war on drugs. Speaking to a legal blog in March, Kahn said, “It is important to be realistic about what the court can achieve.”

Peru’s election. Pedro Castillo finally claimed victory in Peru’s presidential election on Tuesday, more than a week after Peruvians casted their votes. Although electoral authorities have yet to officially announce the results, final ballot totals saw Castillo earn just over 44,000 votes more than his conservative challenger Keiko Fujimori—who has alleged fraud in the face of likely defeat. If the election is officially called in Castillo’s favor, this will be the third presidential race Fujimori has lost. As legal challenges to the vote accumulate, it could be days or possibly weeks before an official winner is announced.

Keep an Eye On

LGBT rights in Hungary. Human rights groups have condemned a new law banning content portraying or “promoting” homosexuality or sex reassignment, which was passed by the Hungarian parliament on Tuesday. All but one of Hungary’s opposition parties boycotted the vote. The ruling Fidesz party defended the legislation as a means of protecting children from pedophilia, a strategy human rights groups emphatically rejected. “Associating pedophilia with LGBT people, banning comprehensive sexuality education and stifling free speech is despicable and unworthy of an EU member state,” Lydia Gall of Human Rights Watch wrote on Twitter.

Taiwan tensions. China’s air force flew 28 military planes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Tuesday in the largest daily incursion since the island’s defense ministry started regularly reporting such activities last year. The mission comes amid increased Chinese military activity around the island in recent months and surpassed the previous record of 25 aircraft, which was reported on April 12.

In the past, Beijing has said such operations are needed to combat what it’s called “collusion” between Taipei and Washington. This particular incursion came after China accused the G-7 of “political manipulation” following the release of a a G-7 communiqué on Sunday—the first that’s ever discussed Taiwan—which stressed “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. 

Odds and Ends

Furniture giant IKEA has been forced to pay roughly $1.3 million in damages and fines after a French court found the company guilty of spying on employees from 2009 to 2012. The company and its managers were accused of enlisting the police and private investigators to illegally access confidential information on job applicants as well as criminal history. The company’s head of risk is reported to have launched investigations into why one staffer could afford a new BMW and why another had “suddenly become a protester.” IKEA’s parent company, INGKA, said it had “implemented a major action plan to prevent this from happening again.”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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