On 25 May 2021, the White House confirmed that presidents Biden and Putin are to meet in Geneva on 16 June 2021.
The meeting comes at a time of tension between the United States and Russia. President Biden has criticised the detention of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, Russia’s agression towards Ukraine and interference in US elections.
On 15 April 2021 the US Department of the Treasury announced sweeping sanctions “to confront Russia’s continued and growing malign behavior”.
A White House statement said that “The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship.”
Ignazio Cassis, Switzerland’s minister of foreign affairs, Tweeted his delight that Geneva had been chosen as a location for the event. Guy Parmelin, Switzerland’s president, also expressed his pleasure at the choice of location and his hope that discussions between the two leaders would be fruitful.
This will not be the first time that Switzerland has hosted a presidential meeting between the two nations. On 19 and 20 November 1985, Geneva hosted a meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev the US and Russian leaders at the time. The video below shows their arrival and initial meeting.
The meeting took place at the villa Fleur-d’Eau in Versoix in Geneva at the height of the cold war. Discussions on diplomatic relations and nuclear arms took place over two days.
The event focused the world’s attention on Geneva, raising the city’s profile and Switzerland’s global role as a neutral meeting place for pivotal global negotiations.
On 16 June 2021, global media attention will return to Geneva. In an interview on RTS, Pierre Wellhauser, Geneva’s head of state in 1985, said that the meeting of Reagan and Gorbachev in Geneva was undisputedly positive for Geneva, politically, economically and socially. Micheline Calmy-Rey, a former Swiss federal minister, told RTS that she thought the event would also remind Switzerland of the international role Geneva plays in the world, despite it being in a far off corner of the country.