US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are preparing for their first long-awaited summit.
The talks in Geneva, Switzerland, come at a time when both sides describe the relationship as at its lowest ebb.
Issues include gun control, sanctions and US allegations of Russian cyber attacks and election meddling. No major breakthroughs are expected, but there is hope of finding small areas of agreement.
It comes at the end of Biden’s first foreign trip as US president, which has also seen him attend meetings with G7 and NATO leaders. During the summit, Mr Biden emphasized that he has the support of his Western partners.
The meeting will be held in a villa overlooking Lake Geneva. The choice of Geneva as a backdrop harks back to the Cold War summit between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985.
However, there is little chance that Wednesday’s summit will match that meeting, whether for personal understanding or political thaw. reports BBC Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford.
Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, told journalists in Moscow that the US-Russia relationship was “at an impasse” and that there was “not much” reason for optimism.
Neither currently has an ambassador to the country, and Russia recently included the US on its official list of “unfriendly states.
” However, Mr Putin told state television that there were “issues where we can work together”, starting with new talks on nuclear arms control, regional conflicts, including Syria and Libya, and climate change.
“If we can create mechanisms to work on those issues, then I think we can say the summit was not in vain,” he said. Similar messages have been given by the US. A senior official told reporters they “didn’t expect a big set of results from this meeting”.
But Mr Biden has said it will be an important step if the two countries can eventually find “stability and predictability” in their relations. He says he hopes to work with Mr Putin in areas where cooperation is in the interest of both countries.
In the run-up to the talks, the US president – who previously called Mr Putin a murderer – called the Russian leader “a worthy adversary”. So what can reach the top? Analysis by Gary O’Donoghue, Geneva It can restart a contact – that’s one of the things hoped for.
If you think there’s been an ambassador to Moscow and Washington from neither side in recent months – that’s a really pretty bad state of affairs. They will also try to find some common ground, especially on issues like arms proliferation where there is a mutual interest in preventing further growth of nuclear arsenals.
Then there’s climate change – the Americans aren’t really convinced that Vladimir Putin is a climate change convert, but it’s something they’d like to try and explore with him. Then there’s the red lines:
trying to stop Russia – as the Americans see it – from meddling in elections, carrying out cyber attacks and encouraging people to carry out ransomware attacks.