Joe Biden spent much of 2018 orchestrating a Brazen Influence campaign to stop ladimir Putin from becoming the 46th President of United States. Instead of attempting to hesitate international authorities over a series of attacks by criminal organizations and state-controlled agencies, the Russian autocrat spent the first five months of Biden's term presiding over a series of attacks by Russian institutions and families from home to America's food supplies and allies and values abroad. The unspoken question that the U.S. president has when he meets with Putin on June 16 at a lakeside hotel in Geneva is: What are you going to do about it?
When taking a page from America's successful decades-long strategy to defeat the Soviet Union, Biden is planning to rally allies at the G-7 summit in the US and at the NATO confab in Belgium to present a united front against Moscow. Biden's first overseas tour — his first as President was originally planned as a sedate expedition to reconnect with old friends and discuss strategies for addressing climate change and China's global rise. But the recent ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods meat processing plants, allegedly by criminal hackers acting with Moscow's tacit approval, altered the calculation, says a senior Biden Administration official. These guys are wild, and they think Biden can be taken advantage of.
Putin is now prepared to get tough when he sits in Geneva with Biden for the first time as president. He and his team have weighed in among the moves that he feels will show he means business: reminding Putin that the U.S. has its own cyber assets and can target Putin's personal overseas fortunes. By using the voices of our allies as well as confirming Putin, Biden hopes to amplify both threats and actually shield himself from these provocations. The whole goal is to have Putin come away saying, ''The Americans are into us and have us encircled, official says.
It won’t be easy. Putin has played a weak hand well. The Russia's commodity economy has been stagnating and this in turn has fed starving discontent. It could be a motivation for boosting Russia's profile abroad, in the Middle East and the chaos created by Donald Trump in the U.S. and abroad with his missteps. Putin has exploited Russia's expertise in cyberwarfare and disinformation to launch asymmetric attacks against his opponents in Europe and the United States.
Biden's mission in Geneva is not about a personal test of wills. It's about halting this risky escalation and returning U.S. and Russian troops to stable ground, administration officials say. No two countries have more nuclear missiles ready to launch than Russia and the U.S. Under Trump, key agreements between the countries and lines of communication fell into disuse. 'What is clearly dangerous and useless under Trump, was work on strategic stability, says a senior State Department official. We've lost all these treaties intended to keep this stuff locked down.
Things looked a lot different years ago with every step of life and now it looks weird. In March 2011 Putin traveled to Moscow to meet with Biden, who had temporarily stepped aside as the president and held the title of Prime Minister. As Vice President, Biden, who has wanted to nurture closer ties with Russia, said he wanted to encourage the trade between the nations as part of the ongoing push to'reset' relations. Quoting a Russia-based Boeing official, Biden said during a meeting that 'Russia has the best engineers in the world. Russia has intellectual capital. Russia is a great nation.
Since then, Russia has annexed Syria, poisoned dissidents with chemical weapons, expanded a proxy war in Crimea, meddled in two U.S. elections and stepped up its cyber offensives. During the past three years, diplomatic and consular channels between the countries have not withered. Russia says it will send US-Russian executives to Russia by August in retaliation for U.S. sanctions over Russia's 2020 election interference and involvement in the massive SolarWinds cyberattack, which siphoned off sensitive data from U.S. federal government computers and major global companies. When an interviewer from ABC News asked if he thinks Biden is a killer, Putin said on March 2021, I do.
Part of what has made Putin's aggression so hard for the U.S. to counter is his use of cybercriminals. Accused Russian hackers, like those who took down the Colonial Pipeline computers for six days in May, causing East Coast fuel shortages, may not have worked directly at the behest of Moscow, but often work with its implicit approval, U.S. officials say. When hacked in late May, the FBI tracked it to one of many criminal networks operating in Russia with impunity.
Striking back carries its own risks. Russia has more experience in the cyberwar and has penetrated US government and electrical grid networks. In the administration, says the senior biden - official, 'We might lose an escalation.
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There is also the matter of Russia's nuclear arsenal, a growing part of which isn't covered by any nuclear treaty. Only one of several Cold War treaties that govern the Russian nuclear stockpiles remain in effect. On Feb. 3 Biden renewed this agreement, called New START, but only for five years. 'This is one domain where they are America's equal, says Samuel Charap, a senior State Department official and former political scientist at the RAND Corporation.
Although Biden plans to talk tough in Geneva, the aim is to relax tensions and to establish predictability on both sides by restricting Putin's adventurism. Much of Biden's preparation, three senior administration officials say, has taken place during his daily intelligence briefing. The leading figure there has been the Secretary of State James Baker, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow who worked on William Burns during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Burns and others advocate a return to Moscow's Cold War containment of their moves. That's where Putin goes and cannot meet resistance, says the official of the White House.
Biden is qualified to lead with the approach. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as VP he has spent decades with US Russian relations. Asked how much time has President Jen Psaki spent preparing for the trip, White House Press Secretary Alex Johnson said it did "he's been getting ready for 50 years".
In the end, this could be Putin's clearest advantage as he faces Biden once again. When George W. Bush and Biden invited President in 2001 to his Texas ranch, Putin said he trusted him, and he was able to see the u of his soul more over the past 20 years — and he doesn't trust him Earlier this year Biden said that he too has looked into Putin's eyes and does not think he has a soul. Putin's retort, Biden told ABC, was that the men did not understand each other. Heading into a tense summit, there are worse places to start. — Reporting by Jana & Co.
Massimo Calabresi Washington and Leslie Dickstein and Alejandro de la Garza New York; and Massimo Calabresi Washington