US President Joe Biden has harbored a skeptical view of Russian President Vladimir Putin for decades.
After former President George W. Bush met with Putin in Slovenia in June 2001, Bush said he looked him in the eye and got “a sense of his soul.” Biden, then a senator and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, responded to those comments by saying, “I don’t trust Putin. Hopefully, the president was being stylistic rather than substantive.”
Biden has taken a large coterie of aides with him on his first foreign trip. He traveled with Blinken aboard Air Force One to Cornwall, though the secretary of state departed early for Brussels on his own plane. Also on the trip are national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who has staffed Biden in summit sessions.
Senior West Wing advisers Jen O’Malley Dillon, Mike Donilon and Bruce Reed are traveling with Biden, as are press secretary Jen Psaki and communications director Kate Bedingfield.
A number of National Security Council officials are also on the trip, including NSC chief of staff Yohannes Abraham, deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh, NSC senior director of speechwriting Carlyn Reichel and senior director for Europe Amanda Sloat.
The Wednesday summit between Biden and Putin — and its anticipated outcome — was the subject of considerable conversation among other leaders gathering for a meeting of their own at NATO Headquarters on Monday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Biden would “be taking some pretty tough messages to President Putin in the course of the next few days,” a comment suggesting that he, too, had discussed the summit with Biden during their back-to-back days of receptions and sessions that he hosted on the first part of Biden’s journey.