Putin 'will smell Biden's weakness and drive a truck through it' at crunch summit, warns Mike Pompeo06/16/2021
VLADIMIR Putin will "smell weakness" on Joe Biden, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said as the two meet today for the first time as leaders.
Biden and Putin are preparing for a crunch showdown in Geneva, Switzerland, which is predicted to be tense and a return to the uneasy status quo between the US and Russia.
Donald Trump ally Pompeo – who is expected to be a Republican presidential candidate in 2024 – has said he expects the former KGB spook to sniff out weakness on Biden.
His predecessor Trump tried hard to project a strongman image, while Biden, 78, is perceived much more as America's lovable – but bumbling – uncle.
Trump and Putin also gave a press conference together, but Biden's team have decided not to as they do not want the optics of the two leaders appearing on the same stage.
"The fact that you are not prepared to stand six or eight feet from your adversary and tell the world what you talked about, the things you care about, and why you care about them, shows an enormous weakness," Pompeo told Fox News.
He went on: "They are watching this. When they smell weakness, when they can sniff it…they will drive a truck through it.
"To see if you are not prepared to simply stand on a podium and respond to questions from the press that might be hard or tricky while your adversary is standing a few feet away from you, that is an enormous sign of weakness."
Pompeo predicted that Putin will "see how far he can push President Biden – and I hope not just in words but in deeds, this administration is prepared to show up to do what we did, to hold Russia accountable for its malign activity and make clear there are red lines".
Biden and Putin have already exchanged barbs, with the US President branding him a "killer" while the Russian leader described Biden as attempting to be "macho" and "Hollywood".
The US President on Monday also described Putin as a "worthy adversary" as he pledged to confront him on various issues between the two powers, saying his rival is "bright" and "tough".
Biden is expected to confront Putin as relations between the two superpowers have hit rocket bottom.
And the summit represents the first major diplomatic challenge for Biden since he took office in January and is the conclusion of his first overseas tour around Europe.
Election meddling, cyber attacks and military tensions over Ukraine are all expected to be on the table as Putin and Biden butt heads and squabble for status.
The two men's relationship is forecast to be much more frosty than the Russian supremo's quite chummy one with Biden's predecessor Trump.
It is expected Biden and Putin will hold separate press conferences, and their summit is expected will last up to five hours.
Both sides have already grimly downplayed expectations for any significant progress.
Biden has repeatedly called out Putin for cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on the US, accused of him running roughshod over democracy and interfering in American elections.
Putin meanwhile has denied any malicious actions against the US – and pointed to the US Capitol attack on January 6 as comparable to his own actions in cracking down on opposition.
Biden has said his main goal is simply to establish clear "red lines" for what the White House will no longer tolerate from Russia.
"I'm not looking for conflict," Biden said in Brussels after the NATO summit, but "we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities".
Meanwhile, Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign affairs adviser, told journalists in Moscow that the US-Russian relationship was "at an impasse" and there is "not much" ground for optimism.
Putin is expected to come into the summit and simply argue that Russia is standing up for its own interested and challenging US dominance on the world stage.
There are hopes of finding small areas of agreement – including the end of a diplomatic row which saw both the US and Russian ambassadors recalled from their postings in Moscow and Washington.
Asked if he was ready for Putin, Biden smiled and said "I'm always ready" as he left for Geneva.
Biden has been highly sceptical of the Russian leader for more than 20 years – and previously slammed former US President George W. Bush for claiming Putin is “trustworthy".
One former US official told Politico ahead of this week’s meeting that there is “nothing Putin can do to make [the president] like him.”
“Biden sees Putin as someone who is rational, thuggish — someone who is not confined by any sense of morality or concern over human rights or anything of that nature … just a cold, hard realistic assessment of the man," they said.
The pair have met previously, ten years ago when Biden was vice president.
Biden claims that during the meeting he told Putin he did not believe he has a soul – an apparent reference to Bush saying he saw the Russian leader's "soul" during their first meeting in Slovenia.
“Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul,” Biden told a journalist of the March 2011 Moscow meeting.
Biden claimed that Putin smiled and replied “we understand one another" – but Putin denies that conversation ever took place.
The meeting on Wednesday comes after Biden has held multiple summits with some of the US’s top European allies and visited the UK for the G7.
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