Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin & President Joe Biden
Published June 17, 2021
The Center Square [By Jack Birle] –
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a broad range of issues but had little substance to show after a summit in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday.
After a long week of meetings at the G-7 and NATO, Biden finished his first international trip as president by meeting with Putin amid tension between the U.S. and Russia.
After the nearly three hours of discussion, Biden and Putin held separate press conferences to address issues that were talked about at the summit. Putin held his press conference first and faced sharp questions from American reporters.
Rachel Scott, reporter for ABC News, pressed Putin on his treatment of political opponents, specifically the jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, asking “So my question is, Mr. President, what are you so afraid of?”
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Putin did not answer the question, instead making a comparison between the Black Lives Matter group in the U.S. and Russian opposition groups. Putin was pressed again but instead made a comparison between Russian opposition groups and rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
At the press conference, Putin also announced the U.S. and Russia would allow each other’s ambassadors to return to their stations in Moscow, Russia, and Washington, D.C. respectively, after both countries withdrew them following comments by Biden where he called Putin a “killer.”
Putin also refused to take any responsibility for cyberattacks against the U.S. including the most recent attack against the Colonial Pipeline. The cyberattack on the pipeline in May caused gas shortages and soaring gas prices across the east coast. The operators of the pipeline had to pay a $4.4 million ransom to regain control of the pipeline.
Biden at his press conference spoke about cyberattacks, specifically the Colonial Pipeline attack, and attempted to provide insight on his discussion with Putin.
“I looked at him, I said, ‘Well, how would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?’ He said it would matter,” said Biden. “This is not about just our self-interest, it’s about a mutual self-interest.”
Biden stressed that he did not wish ill-will against Putin or the Russian people during his discussion with the Russian president. He stated he wanted success for both the American and Russian people.
“Now, I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else, it’s for the American people,” said Biden. “Fighting COVID-19, rebuilding our economy, re-establishing relationships around the world, our allies and friends, and protecting the American people. That’s my responsibility as president.”
When asked about specific leverage Biden had to get Putin to stop hacks and other cyberattacks like Solar Winds, he talked about Putin’s credibility on the world stage as a factor.
“He knows there are consequences,” said Biden. “His credibility worldwide shrinks. Let’s get this straight. How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it?”
Critics are already blasting Biden for achieving little substantial progress out of this summit, but Biden is pushing for patience to see active change by Russia.
“We’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters,” said Biden. “We’ll find out whether we work to deal with everything from release of people in Russian prisons or not. We’ll find out whether we have a cybersecurity arrangement that begins to bring some order.”
About the Author:
Jack Birle is an intern for The Center Square’s Washington, D.C. Bureau. He is currently a student at Villanova University.