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On GPS: Hillary Clinton on Russia
05:19 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

President Joe Biden said Tuesday it is his “hope and expectation” to meet with his Russian counterpart during a planned visit to Europe in June, a high-stakes diplomatic encounter he hopes can restore a degree of predictability to an increasingly fraught relationship.

“We’re working on it,” Biden said at the White House, suggesting his proposed summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin could come as soon as the middle of next month, when he will be in Europe seeking to restore trans-Atlantic ties on his first foreign trip as President.

Biden was answering a question on whether he planned to meet with Putin during the upcoming trip, which so far includes stops at the Group of 7 summit in southwest England and NATO and EU summits in Brussels, Belgium. Those summits stretch from June 11 to June 14.

A meeting with Putin would likely come after those engagements, officials have suggested, since Biden would value consultations with Western leaders before sitting down with Putin. Symbolically, it is also unlikely Biden would make his first diplomatic engagement outside the United States with Putin.

On Friday, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said he’d spoken with his Russian counterpart that morning but that summit details like a time and place hadn’t been settled.

“We are trying to make plans for a summit this summer in a third country in Europe. No date has been fixed, no location has been fixed. But it’s actively under discussion,” Sullivan said during an appearance at the Aspen Institute.

Where the talks occur remains an open question. The leaders of Austria, Finland and the Czech Republic have offered up their capitals as potential venues. White House officials have specified it will occur somewhere in Europe.

In a phone call with Putin on Friday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz “suggested considering Vienna as the venue of a potential Russia-US meeting at the highest level if a relevant agreement to hold the meeting is reached,” according to a readout from the Kremlin.

Vienna hosted talks between the US and Russia to renew a nuclear arms treaty earlier this year. The Austrian capital is currently the site of negotiations between Iran and signatories of the Obama-era nuclear deal – including Russia – about bringing the US back into the agreement.

In mid-April, Czech Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček offered Prague as a potential venue for a summit in a tweet. President Barack Obama met there with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a summit in 2010.

And Finnish President Sauli Niinisto offered Finland as a potential venue after the potential meeting was announced. His office said the possibility of hosting it in Finland had been presented to the US and Russia. President Donald Trump held talks with Putin in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, in 2018, causing consternation when he meet one-on-one with only translators present for more than an hour.

Biden initially proposed a summit with Putin last month during a telephone call, and the two sides have been working to finalize details since. Despite deteriorating relations between the two countries on issues like Ukraine and election interference, Biden hopes to establish a clear channel of communication that would avoid undue surprises.