US President Joe Biden arrived in Geneva on Tuesday ahead of his first summit with Vladimir Putin, as tensions between Moscow and Washington stand at their highest in years.
Biden flew in to Geneva at 4:16 pm (1416 GMT) on the last leg of his first foreign trip as president, after mending relations with Washington’s closest allies during G7 and NATO summits in Britain and Brussels.
He arrived in Geneva on the eve of the first meeting between US and Russian leaders since 2018, when Putin met Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump in Helsinki.
Biden was greeted on the Geneva Airport tarmac by Swiss President Guy Parmelin, flanked by the heads of the Geneva cantonal and city authorities and US diplomats based in the city.
After handshakes and a few brief exchanges, he climbed into his armoured limousine known as “The Beast” and was whisked off to the five-star Intercontinental Hotel, just a mile (1.6 kilometres) away.
Switzerland has launched a massive security operation to ensure the safety of Biden, Putin and their large entourages, deploying around 4,000 police, troops and security personnel to guard the summit from all angles.
The summit venue, the La Grange villa and its surrounding park, has been ringed with two kilometres of barbed wire-topped security fencing.
Several blocks around Biden’s hotel, near the United Nations’ European headquarters, were also blocked off with barbed-wire fencing.
The international city, which on Tuesday was flying US and Russian flags on its main bridge crossing the end of the picturesque Lake Geneva, is well accustomed to hosting heads of state and other dignitaries.
But such showpiece summits are rare — the last time leaders from Washington and Moscow met in the neutral country was back in 1985, when US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met each other for the first time.
Wednesday’s summit comes as Washington and Moscow find themselves at loggerheads over a long list of disputes — from cyber-attacks and election meddling to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and designation of his organisations as “extremist” groups.
Expectations for the talks are low, with officials on both sides repeatedly saying the two leaders are unlikely to find much common ground.