President Biden on Tuesday said he plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month during his first overseas trip since taking office.
Biden said he expects to add the Putin summit to his agenda while making two other stops in Europe.
“That is my hope and expectation. We’re working on it,” Biden told reporters at the White House in response to a question.
Biden already is booked for stops at the G7 summit in England, which runs June 11-13, and at a NATO summit in Belgium on June 14.
Biden in April offered Putin a summer summit in Europe during a phone call in which he informed the Russian leader of US plans to expel diplomats and apply new sanctions as punishment for the SolarWinds hack and alleged Russian meddling in the 2020 election.
A summit carries significant political risk for Biden, who would have to avoid appearing weak during any public engagements, while also advancing his stated desire to improve direct communication between himself and Putin.
Biden appeared to blink last month on a decision to send warships to the Black Sea over Russian aggression in Ukraine. The Pentagon ordered a U-turn by two US destroyers.
After a 2018 summit with Putin, former President Donald Trump was forced into damage control due to criticism of his remarks seeming to accept Putin’s denial of hacking Democrats in 2016. Trump said he misspoke.
Biden routinely attacked Trump during the presidential campaign for not punishing Russia over an unconfirmed report on alleged Russian bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan. The Biden administration last month walked back the possibility that Russia offered bounties, saying there was only low to moderate confidence in that possibility.
He and Putin also have traded insults.
Biden said in a recent ABC News interview that he regarded Putin as a “killer” and claimed that he once told the Russian leader to his face that he lacks a soul.
“I said [to Putin], ‘I looked through your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul,’ ” Biden told ABC News. Putin allegedly looked back and replied, “We understand each other.”
Putin responded to Biden’s “killer” jab by saying, “it takes one to know one.”
Although the venue for the potential summit has not been announced, Vice President Kamala Harris last week spoke with Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö. Her office claimed the call was held in part to discuss ways to reduce migration from Central America.