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Data: U.S. Department of State's Office of the Historian; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of meetings between U.S. and Russian presidents has dwindled in recent years, according to State Department data.

Why it matters: Any get-together is momentous if only for the participants. U.S. presidents have met with Russian dictators during World War II. The nations' leaders have signed arms deals, discussed Ukraine and reports of election interference by Russia in U.S. elections.

What to watch: President Biden has studied up for the summit, meeting with experts and even former Trump officials, Axios reported.

  • The president plans to be tough with Putin but isn't overly optimistic about what can get done, according to Politico.
  • Axios World author David Lawler notes: "All of Biden's predecessors on this list came into office hoping to improve relations with Russia. Biden's goals are more modest: to work together on the few issues, like nuclear security, where interests overlap, and to avoid crises that will cause relations to deteriorate any further."

Go deeper

Jun 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Inside Biden's Putin prep

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Leon Neal (WPA Pool)/Getty Images

President Biden assembled a group of outside Russia experts — including former Trump officials — to brief him for his summit with President Vladimir Putin, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: The previously unreported session demonstrates the extent to which Biden wants to be well prepared, drawing on the experience of officials with first-hand knowledge of the onetime KGB colonel’s tactics and tricks.

Jun 14, 2021 - World

Putin denies Russia is behind cyberattacks ahead of Biden summit

In an exclusive interview with NBC's "Today," Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia is waging cyber warfare against the United States and refused to guarantee opposition leader Alexei Navalny — whose name he would not say — will leave prison alive.

Why it matters: Cyberattacks by Russian intelligence and Russian-speaking criminal groups, as well as the Kremlin's attempted assassination and jailing of Navalny, are among the topics President Biden is expected to raise at his Geneva summit with Putin on Wednesday.

Jun 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Putin, Biden talk tough ahead of summit

Vladimir Putin speaks to NBC's Keir Simmons in Moscow. Photo: Maxim Blinov/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Sending a bearish signal for Wednesday's summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an aggressive preview interview to NBC News, denying cyber-hacking and portraying suspects in the Capitol riot as political prisoners.

Why it matters: This is looking like the rare head of state sit-down where no amount of diplomatic fluff can paper over the gulf between the two countries.