The White House says President Biden's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva next month is a "vital part" of defending American interests and not a "reward" for destabilizing behavior.
Biden and Putin are set to meet in Geneva on June 16, and are expected to discuss a range of issues, including Iran and North Korea's nuclear capabilities, Syria, the Arctic, strategic stability, arms control, climate change, COVID-19 and more.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday was asked why the president offered to meet with Putin, to which she replied: "This is how diplomacy works."
"We don’t meet with people only when we agree, it’s actually important to meet with leaders when we have a range of disagreements, as we do with Russian leaders," Psaki said.
"We don’t regard the meeting with the Russian president as a reward, we regard it as a vital part of defending America’s interests and President Biden is meeting with President Putin because of our countries’ differences, not in spite of them," Psaki continued, adding that the meeting will serve as "an opportunity to raise concerns where we have them, and again, move toward a more stable and predictable relationship with the Russian government."
When asked what message Biden is sending to adversaries by having the meeting with Putin, Psaki replied: "That the president of the United States is not afraid to stand up to our adversaries, and is using a moment of in-person diplomacy to convey areas where he has concern and look for areas of opportunity to work together in areas we have mutual agreement."
Biden first proposed the in-person summit with Putin last month.
"We proposed the summit because we feel it is an opportunity to move forward our national interest and our agenda, and the most effective approaches to diplomacy are those where you seek opportunities to have tough conversations," Psaki explained.
"We’re not suggesting that at the end of this it's going to be easy, breezy from here. In fact, we continue to expect that we’ll continue to have difficult conversations, we will have confrontations at points about areas where we have disagreement, but this is an opportunity to move toward a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia," she added.
The meeting will take place next month while Biden is already in Europe, a source familiar with the arrangements explained to Fox News. The source said Biden will meet with Putin after meeting with G-7 allies, so he can understand their concerns and perspectives on Russia.
Meanwhile, Biden and Putin are also expected to again discuss the intent of the U.S. and Russia to pursue a "strategic stability dialogue on a range of arms control and emerging security issues" to build on the extension of the New START Treaty, according to the White House. The START Treaty enhances U.S. national security by placing verifiable limits on all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons. The treaty began on Feb. 5, 2011, and according to the State Department, the U.S. and the Russian Federation have agreed to extend it through Feb. 4, 2026.
Biden has sought to pressure Russia though economic sanctions, imposing penalties last week on Russian companies and ships for their work on a natural gas pipeline in Europe, though the Biden administration spared the German company overseeing the project – leading to frustration from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
And last month, the Biden administration imposed a raft of new sanctions on Russia for its attempted interference in the 2020 election and a Kremlin-linked cyberattack that penetrated multiple federal agencies.
The measures sanctioned 32 entities and individuals who sought to influence the outcome of the November election last year under orders from the Russian government. The White House also expelled 10 Russian diplomats working in Washington, including some intelligence officers.
In addition to those actions, the Biden administration barred U.S. financial institutions from buying Russian bonds directly from the Russian central bank, Finance Ministry and sovereign wealth fund, limiting Moscow’s ability to borrow money. Those limits will take effect June 14.
The U.S. also said it would sanction "five individuals and three entities related to Russia’s occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and its severe human rights abuses against the local population."
The Kremlin denied any involvement in U.S. elections or the SolarWinds computer hack, which began last year when malicious code was snuck into updates to popular software that monitors computer networks of businesses and governments. The malware, affecting a product made by U.S. company SolarWinds, gave elite hackers remote access into an organization's networks so they could steal information.
Biden informed Putin of the sanctions in advance of issuing the measures, explaining why they were imposed, a source familiar said.
At the time, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that "such aggressive behavior will undoubtedly trigger a resolute retaliation."
"Washington should realize that it will have to pay a price for the degradation of the bilateral ties," Zakharova said, adding that "the responsibility for that will fully lie with the United States."
That raft of sanctions came after the Biden administration, earlier this year, sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.