The Biden-Putin summit: The most important controversial issues

The whole world is watching now, as the US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will speak via video conference on Tuesday.

Since their meeting in Geneva last June, the list of contentious issues between the two countries has expanded.

Here is a quick summary of the most important contentious issues between the two leaders.

 

Ukraine

The United States has warned Russia it will pay a “heavy price” including powerful economic sanctions if it invades Ukraine, which says more than 94,000 Russian troops have massed near its border.

Washington has called for a return to agreements reached in Minsk in 2014 and 2015 aimed at ending the seven-year war between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has now gone on.

 

NATO

Russia says the deployment of its forces is a response to aggressive behavior by NATO and Ukraine, including US fighter flights and US war games in the Black Sea.

Moscow is demanding legally binding security guarantees from the West that the alliance will not expand to the east, which would prevent Ukraine from becoming a member of the alliance, or deploy missiles in Ukraine that would target Russia.

The United States says no country can object to Ukraine’s aspiration to join the alliance.

 

Belarus and immigrants

The United States has accused Belarus, a close ally of Russia, of using migrants from the Middle East as a weapon by encouraging thousands of them to try to enter the European Union from its soil, causing a crisis for the European Union.

Russia backed Belarussian belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko through moves that included sending nuclear-tipped warplanes to patrol Belarus’ airspace.

 

Energy

The United States has said that Russia can and should do more to ease the energy crisis in Europe by increasing gas supplies, and warned it against using energy as a political weapon, particularly against Ukraine.

It also imposed sanctions on Russian entities participating in Nord Stream 2, a newly built gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

Nord Stream 2 is awaiting approval from a German regulator before Russia begins pumping gas through it, so it is likely to be vulnerable to more Western sanctions if the Ukraine crisis escalates.

 

Diplomatic representation

Russia and the United States reduced the size of the diplomatic missions at each other’s embassies in a series of mutual retaliatory moves.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested on December 2 that diplomatic representation is one of the areas in which the two countries can start a new page by removing all restrictions on the representatives of the two countries.

 

Cyber attacks

The United States has accused hackers working for the Russian government or from Russian soil of carrying out cyber-attacks against political parties, businesses and critical infrastructure in the United States.

Russia denies carrying out or turning a blind eye to cyber-attacks.

Biden raised the issue with Putin in June and listed 16 vital sectors he said should be shielded from cyberattacks, but the two sides haven’t publicly indicated any progress on the issue since then.

 

Arms control

Soon after Biden took office, the two countries extended a key agreement limiting the size of their strategic nuclear arsenals.

They promised in Geneva to “lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures,” and Biden said it would take six months to a year to see if a serious strategic dialogue was possible.

So far, there are no clear signs of progress in this regard.

 

Alexei Navalny

Washington has criticized the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most prominent political opponent, and may once again express its concern about human rights in Russia.

 

Americans imprisoned in Russia

The US side has repeatedly raised the case of two former US Marines, Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, who are serving prison sentences in Russia over what Washington considers false accusations.

 

Syria

Most notably, the Syrian issue, since Russia intervened militarily in 2015 to support Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that there were also areas in which they could work together, despite the tensions between them.

In this regard, he referred to the international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the peace process between the former Soviet Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, in which Moscow played the most prominent role.

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