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Biden’s Secret Weapon in Prepping for Putin? Former Trump Officials

Unlike his predecessor, Joe Biden always comes prepared. Knowing he needed a fully stocked verbal arsenal to get ready for his upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Biden put together an uber-study group of outside Russia experts, including former Trump officials, to brief him.

According to a new exclusive from Axios, the President wanted to be as well prepared as possible, leaning on the experience of officials with first-hand knowledge of the onetime KGB colonel’s tactics and tricks.

This is a stark contrast to the infamous trip Trump made to Helsinki in 2018, where he met with Putin behind closed doors and then held a joint press conference where he openly deferred to the Russian leader. Trump infamously questioned his own intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election: “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Among the group of Biden briefers was Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official who once said she considered feigning a medical emergency to cut short that news conference with Putin. There were roughly a dozen participants, including two of President Obama’s former Russian ambassadors: Michael McFaul and John Tefft.

 

In Brussels on Monday, Biden previewed his approach for the meeting, scheduled for Wednesday in Geneva. He said Putin is “bright, he’s tough and I have found that he is a, as they say when we used to play ball, a worthy adversary.”

The group urged him to not hold a public joint press conference with Putin, among other suggestions.

Some in the group favored more engagement with Russia, from student exchanges to restoring diplomatic positions. Others argued for an approach conveying a get-tough message at every opportunity. But all seemed to agree to maintain a firm stance and tough rhetoric, as long any public declarations are followed by actions instead of more empty promises while the world is watching.

 



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