Russian-American consultations began with a restricted-format meeting that included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
After that the talks continued in an expanded format.
Following the summit, the US – Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability was adopted.
U.S. – Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability
We, President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, note the United States and Russia have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.
The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.
President Putin: News conference Q&A following Russia-US talks
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, ladies and gentlemen,
I am at your service. I think there is no need for long opening remarks since everyone is familiar with the topics of discussion in general: strategic stability, cyber security, regional conflicts, and trade relations. We also covered cooperation in the Arctic. This is pretty much what we discussed.
With that, I will take your questions.
Question: Good evening,
Perhaps, you can name the topics that were discussed especially closely? In particular, Ukraine is of great interest. In what context was it touched upon, was the situation in Donbass and the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO discussed?
One more thing: before the talks, there were great expectations about the ambassadors of the two countries returning to their stations in the respective capitals. In particular, your assistant, Yury Ushakov, said that this was possible. Have these decisions been made? How did the talks go in general?
Vladimir Putin: With regard to the ambassadors returning to their stations – the US ambassador to Moscow, and the Russian ambassador to Washington, we agreed on this matter, and they will be returning to their permanent duty stations. When exactly – tomorrow or the day after tomorrow – is a purely technical issue.
We also agreed that the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation and the US State Department would begin consultations on the entire range of cooperation on the diplomatic track. There are things to discuss, and an enormous backlog [of unresolved issues] has piled up. I think both sides, including the American side, are committed to looking for solutions.
With regard to Ukraine, indeed, this issue was touched upon. I cannot say that it was done in great detail, but as far as I understood President Biden, he agreed that the Minsk agreements should be the basis for a settlement in southeastern Ukraine.
As for Ukraine’s potential accession to NATO, this issue was touched upon in passing. I suppose there is nothing to discuss in this respect.
This is how it was in general terms.
Question: Mr President, you said strategic stability was one of the topics. Could you tell us in more detail what decisions were made on this issue? Will Russia and the United States resume or start talks on strategic stability and disarmament, and, in particular, on the New START Treaty? Do they plan to start talks on extending New START, perhaps revising its parameters or signing a new treaty altogether?
Vladimir Putin: The United States and the Russian Federation bear special responsibility for global strategic stability, at least because we are the two biggest nuclear powers – in terms of the amount of ammunition and warheads, the number of delivery vehicles, the level of sophistication and quality of nuclear arms. We are aware of this responsibility.
I think it is obvious to everyone that President Biden made a responsible and, we believe, timely decision to extend New START for five years, that is, until 2024.
Of course, it would be natural to ask what next. We agreed to start interdepartmental consultations under the aegis of the US Department of State and the Foreign Ministry of Russia. Colleagues will determine at the working level the line-up of these delegations, the venues and frequency of meetings.
Question: Hi, Matthew Chance from CNN. Thank you very much for giving me this question.
First of all, could you characterise the dynamic between yourself and President Biden? Was it hostile or was it friendly?
And secondly, throughout these conversations did you commit to ceasing carrying out cyberattacks on the United States? Did you commit to stopping threatening Ukraine’s security? And did you commit to stop cracking down on the opposition in Russia?
Vladimir Putin: I will begin with a general assessment. I believe there was no hostility at all. Quite the contrary. Our meeting was, of course, a principled one, and our positions diverge on many issues, but I still think that both of us showed a willingness to understand each other and look for ways of bringing our positions closer together. The conversation was quite constructive.
As for cyber security, we have agreed to start consultations on this issue. I consider this very important.
Now about the commitments each side must make. I would like to tell you about things that are generally known, but not to the public at large. American sources – I am simply afraid to mix up the names of organisations (Mr Peskov will give them to you later) – have said that most cyberattacks in the world come from US cyberspace. Canada is second. It is followed by two Latin American countries and then the United Kingdom. As you can see, Russia is not on the list of these countries from whose cyberspace the most cyberattacks originate. This is the first point.
Now the second point. In 2020 we received 10 inquiries from the United States about cyberattacks on US facilities – as our colleagues say – from Russian cyberspace. Two more requests were made this year. Our colleagues received exhaustive responses to all of them, both in 2020 and this year.
In turn, Russia sent 45 inquiries to the relevant US agency last year and 35 inquiries in the first half of this year. We have not yet received a single response. This shows that we have a lot to work on.
The question of who, on what scale and in what area must make commitments should be resolved during negotiations. We have agreed to start such consultations. We believe that cyber security is extremely important in the world in general, for the United States in particular, and to the same extent for Russia.
For example, we are aware of the cyberattacks on the pipeline company in the United States. We are also aware of the fact that the company had to pay 5 million to the cybercriminals. According to my information, a portion of the money has been returned from the e-wallets. What do Russia’s public authorities have to do with this?
We face the same threats. For example, there was an attack on the public healthcare system of a large region in the Russian Federation. Of course, we see where the attacks are coming from, and we see that these activities are coordinated from US cyberspace. I do not think that the United States, official US authorities, are interested in this kind of manipulation. What we need to do is discard all the conspiracy theories, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and the Russian Federation. In principle, we have agreed to this, and Russia is willing to do so.
Give them a microphone – part of the question remained unanswered.
Remark: That’s correct and thank you very much for coming back to me, sir.
So, there were two other parts to the question. The first one is: did you commit in these meetings to stop threatening Ukraine? Remember the reason this summit was called in the first place, or the timing of it, was when Russia was building up lots of forces close to border. And the second part of the question, third part of the question was: did you commit to stopping your crackdown against the opposition groups inside Russia led by Alexei Navalny?
Vladimir Putin: I did not hear that part of the question – either it was not translated, or you just decided to ask a second question.
With regard to our obligations regarding Ukraine, we have only one obligation which is to facilitate the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. If the Ukrainian side is willing to do this, we will take this path, no questions asked.
By the way, I would like to note the following. Back in November 2020, the Ukrainian delegation presented its views about how it was planning to implement the Minsk Agreements. Please take a look at the Minsk Agreements – they are not a confidential document. They say that, first, it is necessary to submit proposals on the political integration of Donbass into the Ukrainian legal system and the Constitution. To do so, it is necessary to amend the Constitution – this is spelled out in the agreements. This is the first point. And second, the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine along the Donbass line will begin to be occupied by the border troops of Ukraine on the day following election day – Article 9.
What has Ukraine come up with? The first step it proposed was to move Ukraine’s armed forces back to their permanent stations. What does this mean? This means Ukrainian troops would enter Donbass. This is the first point. Second, they proposed closing the border between Russia and Ukraine in this area. Third, they proposed holding elections three months after these two steps.
You do not need a legal background or any special training to understand that this has nothing to do with the Minsk Agreements. This completely contradicts the Minsk Agreements. Therefore, what kind of additional obligations can Russia assume? I think the answer is clear.
With regard to military exercises, we conduct them on our territory, just like the United States conducts many of its exercises on its territory. But we are not bringing our equipment and personnel closer to the state borders of the United States of America when we conduct our exercises. Unfortunately, this is what our US partners are doing now. So, the Russian side, not the American side, should be concerned about this, and this also needs to be discussed, and our respective positions should be clarified.
With regard to our non-systemic opposition and the citizen you mentioned, first, this person knew that he was breaking applicable Russian law. He needed to check in with the authorities as someone who was twice sentenced to a suspended prison time. Fully cognisant of what he was doing, I want to emphasise this, and disregarding this legal requirement, this gentleman went abroad for medical treatment, and the authorities did not ask him to check in while he was in treatment. As soon as he left the hospital and posted his videos online, the requirements were reinstated. He did not appear; he disregarded the law – and was put on the wanted list. He knew that going back to Russia. I believe he deliberately decided to get arrested. He did what he wanted to do. So, what is there to be discussed?
With regard to the people like him and the systemic opposition in general, unfortunately, the format of a news conference precludes a detailed discussion, but I would like to say the following. Look, I think I will not say anything complicated, it will be clear for everyone. If you find it possible to objectively convey this message to your viewers and listeners, I would be very grateful to you.
So, the United States declared Russia an enemy and an adversary. Congress did this in 2017. US legislation was amended to include provisions that the United States must maintain democratic governance rules and order in our country and support political organisations. This is in your law, US law. Now let’s ask ourselves a question: if Russia is an enemy, what kind of organisations will the United States support in Russia? I think not the ones that make the Russian Federation stronger, but the ones that hold it back, since this is the goal of the United States, something that has been announced publicly. So, these are the organisations and the people who are instrumental in the implementation of the United States’ policy on Russia.
How should we feel about this? I think it is clear: we must be wary. But we will act exclusively within the framework of Russian law.
Question: Pavel Zarubin, VGTRK.
I wanted to continue with this subject. We still see that the Americans keep talking about the so-called political prisoners in Russia. Did you discuss the matter of Navalny at all during your talks with President Biden? In what manner did you discuss it, if at all?
Here is one more important topic. We are all aware, of course, that, let’s say, a new stage in Russia-US relations after President Biden took office began with a very harsh statement aimed at you. Have you settled this matter in any way?
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: President Biden touched upon the matter of human rights and those who, as they believe, represent these issues in the Russian Federation. Yes, we talked about that at his initiative. This is the first thing.
Second, regarding harsh statements. What can I say? All of us are aware of these statements. President Biden called me after that and we discussed the matter. I accepted his explanation. He also suggested that we meet – it was his initiative. We have met, and, as I have already mentioned, we had a very constructive conversation. I saw once again that President Biden is an experienced person, which is absolutely obvious. Our face-to-face discussion lasted almost two hours. It is not with all leaders that such a detailed conversation can be held face to face.
As for all kinds of accusations, you may recall that his predecessor was asked the same question, and he evaded answering it. The incumbent US President decided to reply in this manner, and his reply was different from Mr Trump’s answer.
Generally speaking, responsibility for everything that takes place in our countries ultimately rests with the political leadership and top officials, that is, regarding who is guilty of what and who is the killer. You see, people, including the leaders of various organisations, are killed in American cities every day. You can barely say a word there before you are shot in the face or in the back, regardless of who is nearby, children or other adults. I recall a situation when a woman left her car and started running, and she was shot in the back. All right, these are criminal matters. Take a look at Afghanistan: as many as 120 people were killed there in one blow; entire wedding parties were wiped out. Yes, this could have been a mistake; such things happen. But using drones to shoot people who are obviously civilians in Iraq – what was that? Who is responsible? Who is the killer?
Or take human rights. Listen, Guantanamo is still open. This is contrary to all imaginable rules, to international law or American laws, but it is still functioning. The CIA prisons that were opened in many countries, including in Europe, where they subjected people to torture, – what is this? Is this respect for human rights? I don’t think so, do you?
Hardly anyone in this room will agree that this is how human rights must be protected. But this is the existing political practice. Taking into account this practice and knowing that this was done and can still be done shapes our attitude to what I have mentioned here, and to the people who receive foreign funding to protect the interests of those who pay them.
Question: Murad Gazdiev, RT.
I have a question about the Arctic. You mentioned that you discussed it.
The United States and its allies have been accusing Russia of militarising the Arctic for a long time. Just recently, in May, we heard US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voice his concern over the actions of Russia’s military. What exactly did you discuss?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, we discussed this issue in a broad format and in some detail. This is a highly important and interesting issue as the development of the entire Arctic region and the Northern Sea Route in particular has tremendous economic significance for many countries in the region and beyond it.
The US concerns regarding militarisation are absolutely groundless. We are not doing anything new there compared to the Soviet era. We are restoring the local infrastructure that was lost and demolished completely some time ago. Yes, we are doing this using up-to-date technology. We are restoring the military and border control infrastructure, and we are creating nature conservation infrastructure, which has never been done in the past. We are creating a relevant base for the Emergencies Ministry, which will give us the opportunity to conduct high-seas rescue missions in case of emergency and to protect the environment.
I told our colleagues that I see no concerns here. On the contrary, I am deeply convinced that we can and should work together in this field. Just like the United States, Russia is one of the eight Arctic Council members. This year, Russia chairs the Arctic Council. Moreover, Alaska and Chukotka are separated by a well-known strait, with the United States on one side and Russia on the other. All this taken together should motivate us to pool our efforts.
The use of the Northern Sea Route is regulated by international law. In fact, there are two main laws: the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Polar Code, which consists of several documents and was ratified in 2017. I drew our partners’ attention to the fact that Russia intends to fully honour these international legal norms. We have never violated anything.
We are ready to assist all the interested countries and companies in developing the Northern Sea Route. They say that the navigation season in the region now lasts six months without any problems. In reality, it is even longer, and navigation will become practically year-round due to climate change and as we launch our new icebreakers, including the Lider. Russia has the most powerful nuclear icebreaker fleet which is in high demand here.
Let me remind you that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea describes the legal regime in international waters, including internal waters, the inland sea, the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the open high seas. An inland sea is located inside a country’s territory. Then there is a territorial sea extending 12 nautical miles [from the baseline]. The contiguous zone adds another 12 nautical miles. A coastal state must allow peaceful passage for ships, including warships, through its territorial sea. We do not oppose this concept; we fully support it.
The inland sea is covered by a special regime, and we don’t have to provide anyone with any privilege here. There are five such inland sea spaces, if I remember correctly, including the Gulf of Ob, Yenisei Bay and so on. In all, there are five bays or gulfs. This route is almost 1,000 nautical miles long – 960 nautical miles, I think. It is our sovereign right to allow or not to allow foreign ships to sail there. But we do not abuse this right, and we grant free passage to everyone.
We received 1,000 applications last year. As far as I know, we turned down just ten applications, mostly Russian-flagged ships that, according to our relevant oversight agencies, did not meet the Polar Code’s requirements. The Polar Code deals with the quality of various ships and stipulates the standards for them and their equipment.
If all of us, all concerned countries, including and, maybe, primarily the Nordic Council members work together to resolve all these issues, and some of them require additional examination, then I simply have no doubt that we will find all the solutions and troubleshooting options. I cannot see any problems that we could not resolve.
Question: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Good or at least fair relations between Russia and America have always been a guarantee of global stability and calm. Our relations today are such as you characterised them before this meeting. Mr Biden has agreed with you. Now you are saying: Mutual respect, sufficient calm and warmth have been the companions of this conversation.
Before the meeting, you were speaking about the “red lines,” the concept of “red lines” for Russia. The Americans clearly have “red lines,” too. Did you manage, at this meeting, to come to terms on not crossing these “red lines?” This concerns everything in all matters – the “not crossing” that would improve or at least stabilise our relations.
Vladimir Putin: I can tell you that on the whole we understand what our US partners are saying and they understand what we are saying, when we speak about the “red lines.”
I must tell you frankly though: Of course, we have not gone as far as putting detailed emphases or dividing something. But keeping in mind the fact that during these consultations we have arranged to work both on cyber security and strategic stability, as, incidentally, [we have agreed] on joint work in the Arctic and on some other dimensions, I think that all of this should gradually become a subject for our discussions and, hopefully, agreements.
Question: Mr President, thank you so much for taking my question.
President Biden has said that he would respond if cyberattacks from Russia do not stop. I am curious, what did he tell you? Did he make any threats? And a quick follow-up, if I may, sir. The list of your political opponents who are dead, prisoned or jailed is long. Alexei Navalny, his organisation calls for free and fair elections and an end to corruption, but Russia has outlawed that organisation, calling it extremist. And you have now prevented anyone who supports him to run for office. So my question is, Mr President, what are you so afraid of?
Vladimir Putin: Let me reiterate what I said about various so-called foreign agents and individuals who are positioning themselves as the non-systemic opposition. I already replied to your colleagues – CNN, if I am not mistaken – but obviously the laws of the genre define what should be said when answering your question directly. Here you are, it will be my pleasure to do that again.
The United States has adopted a law, which says that the US will support certain political organisations in Russia. At the same time, it has declared the Russian Federation its enemy and said publicly that it will contain Russia’s development. This begs the question: What political organisations should the United States and other members of the Western community support in Russia, if simultaneously they bankroll them? It is clear that we, like the Americans in the 1930’s, have declared them foreign agents. But their operations are not banned, they can work.
Organisations that have been declared foreign agents are not obliged to stop their operations. But if it is an extremist organisation, this is quite another matter. The organisation you have mentioned openly called for mass riots and tried to involve underage people in them, which is illegal, contrary to Russian laws, and it also openly issued instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails for use against law enforcement officers, and also published personal information about police officers.
The United States recently had to grapple with the severe consequences of the events all of you remember, after the murder of an African American and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. I will not comment on this right now, but I would like to say that we watched the footage of pogroms, violations of the law and so on – we feel for the Americans and the American nation, but we don’t want the same to happen in our country, and we will do our best to prevent this from happening. Fear has nothing to do with this.
Would you like to add anything? Please, pass over the mike.
Remark: You didn’t answer my question, sir. If all of your political opponents are dead, in prison, poisoned, doesn’t that send a message that you do not want a fair political fight?
Vladimir Putin: Speaking of who can be killed or thrown in prison. People went to Congress with political demands after the election. Criminal cases have been opened against 400 people, who face up to 20 or even 25 years in prison. They have been declared domestic terrorists and accused of other crimes. As many as 70 people were detained immediately after those events, and 30 of them are still under arrest. It is unclear on what grounds, because the US authorities have not provided us with this information. Several people died; a woman rioter was fatally shot by a police officer on the spot, although she was not threatening him with a weapon. What is happening in our country is also taking place in many other countries. I would just like to point out once again: we feel for the Americans, but we don’t want the same to happen in our country.
Question: Good afternoon. Dmitry Laru, Izvestia newspaper.
Did you manage to make any arrangements with the US side regarding the repatriation of certain Russians who are serving their sentences in US prisons? If so, when can this take place?
Vladimir Putin: We discussed this matter. President Biden raised it with regard to US nationals who are in prison in the Russian Federation. We discussed this. Compromises are possible in this area. The Foreign Ministry of Russia and the US State Department will be working on this.
Question: Good afternoon.
Mikhail Antonov, Rossiya-1 TV channel.
You said you discussed trade with President Biden – it is probably the most positive agenda possible. Businesses in both countries are interested in development. What prospects do you see there?
Vladimir Putin: It is not up to us; it depends on the American side. We do not impose any restrictions. I think the US lost as much as Russia after certain restrictions were put on the economy and trade. Yes, it did have some effect on our development, so in this sense, the United States partly achieved its goal of constraining Russia’s development, but not critically. This is my first point.
The second point has to do with American businesses’ interest. The largest delegation at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, 200 people, was from the US. As a result of the restrictions, including for American companies, some Americans suffered losses and went out of business playing into the hands of their competitors from other countries; we talked about this. What was that for? It got them nowhere but brought losses.
Russia’s trade with the United States is about $28 billion, I think. In the first quarter of this year, it grew by 16.5 percent. If this trend continues, I think it will benefit everyone. We talked about it.
Question: Ann Simmons, The Wall Street Journal.
Mr President, thank you very much for the opportunity to ask you a question.
You met with President Biden a few years ago when he was vice president. He said he looked you in the eye and he did not think you had a soul. You said, it means that we understand each other.
Please tell me, did you look him in the eye? And what did you see there? Did you see someone you can work with? Please tell me, has President Biden invited you to visit the White House? If so, did you agree to go?
Vladimir Putin: President Biden did not invite me to visit. I have not yet made any invitation either. It seems to me that the conditions need to be ripe for such trips, for such meetings, for such visits.
As for this ‘looking into someone’s soul’ and seeing or not seeing anything there – this is not the first time I have heard this. To be honest, I don’t remember that conversation, but I admit it could have somehow escaped my attention. But if you asked me what kind of interlocutor and partner President Biden is, I can say that he is a very constructive and balanced person, as I expected, very experienced, this is immediately evident.
He recalled some things about his family, about what his mother told him – these are important things. They do not seem to be directly related to the subject, but they still show the level and quality of his moral values. That was quite endearing, and I did feel like we generally spoke the same language. This does not mean we have to peek into each other’s souls, look into each other’s eyes and swear eternal love and friendship – not at all. We defend the interests of our countries, our peoples, and our relations are always primarily pragmatic in nature.
Andrei, you please.
Question: Andrei Kolesnikov, Kommersant newspaper.
Mr President, have you got any new illusions following this meeting?
Vladimir Putin: I did not have any old illusions, and you are talking about new ones. Where did you take this line about illusions? There are no illusions, nor can there be any.
Pavel Remnev, Zvezda TV channel.
Mr President, I also have a couple of questions. Have you and President Biden discussed global climate change?
My second question is about the US media. Quite recently, you were interviewed by NBC. Do you think it is fair that you grant interviews to the US media, while US presidents do not grant interviews to the Russian media? Do you find that these interviews have a positive impact, if your remarks are constantly distorted and, honestly speaking, the interviewers are not exactly polite?
Vladimir Putin: You know, what concerns distortions, innuendos, or, on the contrary, certain attacks, this is the practice of today’s international relations. One can do nothing about it, I am long used to this, and all of us have been living with this for decades.
As for who grants what interviews, this is decided by a relevant leader or side, if they want to bring some additional information across to people. We are seeking to do this and my interview with the US press is related precisely to this.
As for the Russian media activities in general, President Biden, for example, raised a question about the operation in Russia of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, which we have declared foreign agents. I had the impression that the members of the US delegation did not know that before that – we have just two media outlets, Russia Today and Sputnik, working for foreign audiences – that before that the US side had declared them foreign agents in the United States and stripped them of their accreditation. What we did, we did in response. Moreover, Russia Today has been meeting all the demands posed by the US regulator and by US law. It is registering there in an appropriate manner, and so on, although they are confronted with quite a lot of problems regarding personnel employment, financial items, and so on.
There are no problems like this in Russia and, regrettably, the US media do not meet in full the requirements posed by the Russian law.
We have had a talk on this. I hope that in this sphere, too, we will be able to streamline this work by employing the good offices of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Question: Galina Polonskaya, Euronews.
We all saw that you shook hands with Joe Biden at the very beginning of the meeting. My question is: did you reach a new level of mutual understanding and, most importantly, a new level of trust with the US President? Do you consider it possible at this stage to reach a new phase in bilateral relations, when they will be absolutely clear and transparent, that is, what both countries are striving to achieve?
Vladimir Putin: You know, Leo Tolstoy said once, there is no happiness in life, only flashes of it – cherish them. I believe that there cannot be family trust in this situation, but I think we have seen flashes of it.
Question: Ivan Blagoi, Channel One.
The coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues for the entire planet. Did you discuss it at the meeting with the US President? If so, what are the prospects of working together with the Americans on combatting this disease? Maybe the measures could include the mutual recognition of vaccines?
Vladimir Putin: We have touched upon this issue, but only briefly.
As you know, during the previous administration, we responded to the US request and even sent our equipment as humanitarian aid. The United States is a large and powerful country, and it was not that they did not have the means; they just needed ventilators urgently at that time. We supplied them, as you know, without seeking to make a profit. We are ready to cooperate in this area in the future, but we did not discuss that in detail today.
Question: Three years ago, you met with President Donald Trump. After that meeting, relations between the two countries deteriorated even more. Is there anything that could prevent this from happening again? Have we hit rock bottom with our relations with the United States so that the only way is up?
Vladimir Putin: It is hard to say because all actions that led to the deterioration of Russia-US relations were initiated by the United States, not us. Members of Congress are quite inventive people, so I have no idea that they will come up with next time.
Remark: Alexander Gamov, Komsomolskaya Pravda.
I am not sure if you have heard, but we won against Finland, 1–0.
Vladimir Putin: Great, congratulations.
Question: If we apply the same criteria to the Biden-Putin meeting, what will the score be?
And the second question. Before coming to Geneva, the Americans said almost every day that they would put pressure on Russia, on President Putin. Did you feel this pressure and how did you counter it? I think the main question that Russia is interested in is how our President held up in Geneva.
I think that’s enough questions.
Vladimir Putin: I think so too.
Remark: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: There was no pressure even though the conversation was open, honest and without any unnecessary diplomatic deviations from the agenda. I reiterate, there was no pressure either from our part, or from their part, and this would have been pointless; this was not the point of the meeting.
What was the first part of your question?
Remark: What score?
Vladimir Putin: The score. I believe that before the meeting, President Biden said that it was not a sports competition, and I absolutely agree. Why would we make up some score? The meeting was fruitful overall. It was meaningful, concrete and was held in a result-driven atmosphere. And the main result is these flashes of trust that I just mentioned in response to the question your colleague from Euronews had asked.
BBC News, please.
Question: Thank you.
Steve Rosenberg, BBC News.
Mr President, Joe Biden is calling for stable and predictable relations with Russia. But it is believed in the West that unpredictability is a feature of the Russian foreign policy. Are you ready to give up unpredictability for the sake of improving relations with the West?
Vladimir Putin: You are a famous wordsmith who has reached a high degree of perfection in this field; this is to be envied. In the first part of your question, you said “it is believed in the West.” In the second part, you asked if we are ready to give this up. If something is believed in the West, this does not mean that it is true.
Let me begin with the first part of your question. You said it is believed in the West that Russia’s foreign policy is unpredictable. Let me return the puck. The US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 was an absolutely unpredictable decision. Why was it necessary to do this, thereby destroying the basis of international stability in the field of strategic security? Then pulling out of the INF Treaty in 2019. Is this stability? Absolutely not. The withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, is this stability? There is almost nothing left in the sphere of strategic stability. Thankfully, President Biden adopted an absolutely adequate decision to extend the New START Treaty for five years.
Or take the situation with Ukraine and Crimea – is it a song and dance situation? Was it for the sake of stability that coup d’état was supported in Ukraine after former President Yanukovych had agreed to accept all demands of the opposition? He was actually ready to step down and to hold new elections in three months. But no, it was decided to stage a bloody coup d’état, which has led to the consequences everyone is aware of, in the southeast of Ukraine and later in Crimea.
And you say we are unpredictable? No, I don’t think so. In my opinion, we are responding absolutely adequately to the arising threats. I believe that for the situation to be really stable we should coordinate the rules of conduct in all the spheres you have mentioned: strategic stability, cyber security, and the settlement of regional conflicts.
I think that it is possible to come to an agreement on all these issues; at least this is my impression after the meeting with President Biden today.
Let us give the floor to a foreign publication. Bloomberg, please, and this will be all.
Question: Ilya Arkhipov, Bloomberg News.
Mr President, the US imposed another round of sanctions very shortly after your meeting with President Trump in 2016. Did you receive any guarantees during your talks with Joe Biden today that no US sanctions would be imposed against Russia in the near future?
Regarding the results you have mentioned, when you said that there were signs of trust. Do you trust President Biden more to implement the initial agreements you discussed today? Are you positive that he will do this, because it is believed that the US state machine is showing more support for the US President’s line now than during Donald Trump’s term?
And lastly, regarding what you said about consultations on cyber security and Ukraine. It’s not clear to me if working groups on cyber security will be established. And the “red lines” you mentioned: have you marked them clearly for each other? Can you tell us about this?
Vladimir Putin: I have mentioned the “red lines” on many occasions. Understanding regarding this comes during negotiations on the key areas of interaction. There is no sense in trying to intimidate each other. This is not the thing to do when people meet to talk; otherwise, there is no sense in meeting.
As for sanctions and economic restrictions, I have already pointed out that we are not aware of the domestic political mood and the line-up of forces [in the US], or rather we know, but we cannot fully understand the developments. Some forces are against improving relations with Russia, and others support this. I cannot say which of them will win.
But if steps are made after this meeting such as in 2016, which you mentioned, this will be yet another opportunity missed.
Please, and let’s wrap it up.
Question: Good evening. Mr President, thank you for the opportunity. I am Tamara Alteresco from Radio Canada in Moscow. You said to a couple of my colleagues you wanted unbiased, fair questions and coverage. I have a fair question for you. It actually comes from my nine-year-old daughter, who asked me before I left to come here: “What is the big deal with the summit?” And that’s quite a complicated answer for a nine-year-old, so I’d like you to explain to us, in your own words, Mr President, why is this relationship so complicated? And also, she’d like to know – and I’d like to know – why are young people not allowed to protest in Russia?
Vladimir Putin: It is just wonderful that your nine-year-old daughter takes an interest in these matters. The answer is very simple. Just take a look around and say: “Do you see how beautiful our world is? Adult people, the leaders of two countries, the world’s two largest nuclear powers are meeting to make this world a safe, reliable and prosperous place for all people on this planet. They will discuss the matters of horrible weapons, which we need to scale down and to coordinate common non-use terms. They will speak about environmental protection, so that all rivers and seas are clean, without floods and droughts, and so that all people on the planet have enough to eat no matter where they live. They will talk about healthcare, so that our children feel well and are able to study and look into the future confidently.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I would be delighted if you covered our meeting today from this angle.
Thank you for your attention. All the best!
Remarks by President Biden in post-summit Press Conference
Hôtel du Parc des Eaux-Vives
7:20 P.M. CEST
(There is some French bleedthrough at the start of the audio for a few moments)
THE PRESIDENT: It’s been a long day for you all. (Laughs.) I know it was easy getting into the — the pre-meeting. There was no problem getting through those doors, was it — was there?
Anyway, hello, everyone. Well, I’ve just finished the — the last meeting of this week’s long trip, the U.S.-Russian Summit.
And I know there were a lot of hype around this meeting, but it’s pretty straightforward to me — the meeting. One, there is no substitute, as those of you who have covered me for a while know, for a face-to-face dialogue between leaders. None. And President Putin and I had a — share a unique responsibility to manage the relationship between two powerful and proud countries — a relationship that has to be stable and predictable. And it should be able to — we should be able to cooperate where it’s in our mutual interests.
And where we have differences, I wanted President Putin to understand why I say what I say and why I do what I do, and how we’ll respond to specific kinds of actions that harm America’s interests.
Now, I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else; it’s for the American people: fighting COVID-19; rebuilding our economy; reestablishing our relationships around the world with our allies and friends; and protecting our people. That’s my responsibility as President.
I also told him that no President of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view. That’s just part of the DNA of our country.
So, human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him. It’s not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights; it’s about who we are. How could I be the President of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?
I told him that, unlike other countries, including Russia, we’re uniquely a product of an idea. You’ve heard me say this before, again and again, but I’m going to keep saying it. What’s that idea? We don’t derive our rights from the government; we possess them because we’re born — period. And we yield them to a government.
And so, at the forum, I pointed out to him that that’s why we’re going raise our concerns about cases like Aleksey Navalny. I made it clear to President Putin that we’ll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights because that’s what we are, that’s who we are. The idea is: “We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women…” We haven’t lived up to it completely, but we’ve always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.
And I raised the case of two wrongfully imprisoned American citizens: Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.
I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to operate, and the importance of a free press and freedom of speech.
I made it clear that we will not tolerate attempts to violate our democratic sovereignty or destabilize our democratic elections, and we would respond.
The bottom line is, I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.
I also said there are areas where there’s a mutual interest for us to cooperate, for our people — Russian and American people — but also for the benefit of the world and the security of the world. One of those areas is strategic stability.
You asked me many times what was I going to discuss with Putin. Before I came, I told you I only negotiate with the individual. And now I can tell you what I was intending to do all along, and that is to discuss and raise the issue of strategic stability and try to set up a mechanism whereby we dealt with it.
We discussed in detail the next steps our countries need to take on arms control measures — the steps we need to take to reduce the risk of unintended conflict.
And I’m pleased that he agreed today to launch a bilateral strategic stability dialogue — diplomatic speak for saying, get our military experts and our — our diplomats together to work on a mechanism that can lead to control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the scene now that reduce the times of response, that raise the prospects of accidental war. And we went into some detail of what those weapons systems were.
Another area we spent a great deal of time on was cyber and cybersecurity. I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack — period — by cyber or any other means. I gave them a list, if I’m not mistaken — I don’t have it in front of me — 16 specific entities; 16 defined as critical infrastructure under U.S. policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.
Of course, the principle is one thing. It has to be backed up by practice. Responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory.
So we agreed to task experts in both our — both our countries to work on specific understandings about what’s off limits and to follow up on specific cases that originate in other countries — either of our countries.
There is a long list of other issues we spent time on, from the urgent need to preserve and reopen the humanitarian corridors in Syria so that we can get food — just simple food and basic necessities to people who are starving to death; how to build it and how it is in the interest of both Russia and the United States to ensure that Iran — Iran — does not acquire nuclear weapons. We agreed to work together there because it’s as much interest — Russia’s interest as ours. And to how we can ensure the Arctic remains a region of cooperation rather than conflict.
I caught part of President’s — Putin’s press conference, and he talked about the need for us to be able to have some kind of modus operandi where we dealt with making sure the Arctic was, in fact, a free zone.
And to how we can each contribute to the shared effort of preventing a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan. It’s very much in — in the interest of Russia not to have a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.
There are also areas that are more challenging. I communicated the United States’ unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
We agreed to pursue diplomacy related to the Minsk Agreement. And I shared our concerns about Belarus. He didn’t disagree with what happened; he just has a different perspective of what to do about it.
But I know you have a lot of questions, so let me close with this: It was important to meet in person so there can be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate.
I did what I came to do: Number one, identify areas of practical work our two countries can do to advance our mutual interests and also benefit the world.
Two, communicate directly — directly — that the United States will respond to actions that impair our vital interests or those of our allies.
And three, to clearly lay out our country’s priorities and our values so he heard it straight from me.
And I must tell you, the tone of the entire meetings — I guess it was a total of four hours — was — was good, positive. There wasn’t any — any strident action taken. Where we disagreed — I disagreed, stated where it was. Where he disagreed, he stated. But it was not done in a hyperbolic atmosphere. That is too much of what’s been going on.
Over this last week, I believe — I hope — the United States has shown the world that we are back, standing with our Allies. We rallied our fellow democracies to make concert — concerted commitments to take on the biggest challenges our world faces.
And now we’ve established a clear basis on how we intend to deal with Russia and the U.S.-Russia relationship.
There’s more work ahead. I’m not suggesting that any of this is done, but we’ve gotten a lot of business done on this trip.
And before I take your questions, I want to say one last thing. Folks, look, this is about — this about how we move from here. This is — I listened to, again, a significant portion of what President Putin’s press conference was, and as he pointed out, this is about practical, straightforward, no-nonsense decisions that we have to make or not make.
We’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters. 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.
Because, look, the countries that most are likely to be damaged — failure to do that — are the major countries. For example, when I talked about the pipeline that cyber hit for $5 million — that ransomware hit in the United States, I looked at him and I said, “Well, how would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?” He said it would matter.
This is not about just our self-interest; it’s about a mutual self-interest.
I’ll take your questions. And as usual, folks, they gave me a list of the people I’m going to call on.
So, Jonathan, Associated Press.
Q Thank you, sir. U.S. intelligence has said that Russia tried to interfere in the last two presidential elections, and that Russia groups are behind hacks like SolarWinds and some of the ransomware attacks you just mentioned. Putin, in his news conference just now, accepted no responsibility for any misbehavior. Your predecessor opted not to demand that Putin stop these disruptions. So what is something concrete, sir, that you achieved today to prevent that from happening again? And what were the consequences you threatened?
THE PRESIDENT: Whether I stopped it from happening again — he knows I will take action, like we did when — this last time out. What happened was: We, in fact, made it clear that we were not going to continue to allow this to go on. The end result was we ended up withdrawing — they went withdrawing ambassadors, and we closed down some of their facilities in the United States, et cetera. And he knows there are consequences.
Now, look, one of the consequences that I know — I don’t know; I shouldn’t say this; it’s unfair of me — I suspect you may all think doesn’t matter, but I’m confidence it matters to him — confident it matter to him and other world leaders of big nations: 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? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he is engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country that is desperately trying to make sure it maintains its standing as a major world power.
And so it’s not just what I do; it’s what the actions that other countries take — in this case, Russia — that are contrary to international norms. It’s the price they pay. They are not — they are not able to dictate what happens in the world. There are other nations of significant consequence — i.e. the United States of America being one of them.
Q Mr. President, just a quick follow on the same theme of consequences. You said, just now, that you spoke to him a lot about human rights. What did you say would happen if opposition leader Aleksey Navalny dies?
THE PRESIDENT: I made it clear to him that I believe the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia.
I’ll go back to the same point: What do you think happens when he’s saying, “It’s not about hurting Navalny,” this — you know, all the stuff he says to rationalize the treatment of Navalny — and then he dies in prison?
I pointed out to him that it matters a great deal when a country, in fact — and they asked me why I thought that it was important to continue to have problems with the President of Syria. I said, “Because he’s in violation of an international norm. It’s called a Chemical Weapons Treaty. Can’t be trusted.”
It’s about trust. It’s about their ability to influence other nations in a positive way.
Look, would you like to trade our economy for Russia’s economy? Would you like to trade? And, by the way, we talked about trade. I don’t have any problem with doing business with Russia, as long as they do it based upon international norms. It’s in our interest to see the Russian people do well economically. I don’t have a problem with that.
But if they do not act according to international norms, then guess what? That will not — that only won’t it happen with us, it will not happen with other nations. And he kind of talked about that — didn’t he, today? — about how the need to reach out to other countries to invest in Russia. They won’t as long as they are convinced that, in fact, the violations —
For example, the American businessman who was in house arrest. And I pointed out, “You want to get American business to invest? Let him go. Change the dynamic.” Because American businessmen, they’re not — they’re not ready to show up. They don’t want to hang around in Moscow.
I mean, I — look, guys, I know we make foreign policy out to be this great, great skill that somehow is, sort of, like a secret code. Pract- — all foreign policy is, is a logical extension of personal relationships. It’s the way human nature functions.
And understand, when you run a country that does not abide by international norms, and yet you need those international norms to be somehow managed so that you can participate in the benefits that flow from them, it hurts you. That’s not a satisfying answer: “Biden said he’d invade Russia.” You know, it is not — you know. By the way, that was a joke. That’s not true.
But my generic point is, it is — it is more complicated than that.
David Sanger. I thought I saw David. There he is.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the run-up to this discussion, there’s been a lot of talk about the two countries spilling down into a Cold War. And I’m wondering if there was anything that you emerged from in the discussion that made you think that he —
THE PRESIDENT: With your permission, I’m going to take my coat off. The sun is hot.
Q — anything that would make you think that Mr. Putin has decided to move away from his fundamental role as a disrupter, particularly a disrupter of NATO and the United States?
And if I could also just follow up on your description of how you gave him a list of critical infrastructure in the United States. Did you lay out very clearly what it was that the penalty would be for interfering in that critical infrastructure? Did you leave that vague? Did he respond in any way to it?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me answer your first — well, I’ll second question, first.
I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it. He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but it’s significant. And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber. He knows.
Q In the cyber way.
THE PRESIDENT: In the cyber way.
Number two, I — I think that the last thing he wants now is a Cold War. Without quoting him — which I don’t think is appropriate — let me ask a rhetorical question: You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China. China is moving ahead, hellbent on election, as they say, seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world.
You’re in a situation where your economy is struggling, you need to move it in a more aggressive way, in terms of growing it. And you — I don’t think he’s looking for a Cold War with the United States.
I don’t think it’s about a — as I said to him, I said, “Your generation and mine are about 10 years apart. This is not a ‘kumbaya’ moment, as you used to say back in the ’60s in the United States, like, ‘Let’s hug and love each other.’ But it’s clearly not in anybody’s interest — your country’s or mine — for us to be in a situation where we’re in a new Cold War.” And I truly believe he thinks that — he understands that.
But that does not mean he’s ready to, quote, figuratively speaking, “lay down his arms,” and say, “Come on.” He still, I believe, is concerned about being, quote, “encircled.” He still is concerned that we, in fact, are looking to take him down, et cetera. He still has those concerns, but I don’t think they are the driving force as to the kind of relationship he’s looking for with the United States.
Jennifer. Jennifer Jacobs.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Is there a particular reason why the summit lasted only about three hours? We know you had maybe allotted four to five hours. Was there any reason it ran shorter?
Also, did — President Putin said that there were no threats or scare tactics issued. Do you agree with that assessment, that there were no threats or scare tactics?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q And also, did you touch on Afghanistan and the safe withdrawal of troops?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Yes, yes, and yes. Let me go back to the first part.
The reason it didn’t go longer is: When is the last time two heads of state have spent over two hours in direct conversation across a table, going into excruciating detail? You may know of a time; I don’t. I can’t think of one.
So we didn’t need, as we got through, when we brought in the larger group — our defense, our intelligence, and our foreign — well, our — my foreign minister — wasn’t the foreign minister — my Secretary of State was with me the whole time — our ambassador, et cetera. We brought everybody in. We had covered so much.
And so there was a summary done by him and by me of what we covered. Lavrov and Blinken talked about what we had covered. We raised things that required more amplification or made sure we didn’t have any misunderstandings. And — and so it was — it was — kind of, after two hours there, we looked at each other like, “Okay, what next?”
What is going to happen next is we’re going to be able to look back — look ahead in three to six months, and say, “Did the things we agreed to sit down and try to work out, did it work? Do we — are we closer to a major strategic stability talks and progress? Are we further along in terms of…” — and go down the line. That’s going to be the test.
I’m not sitting here saying because the President and I agreed that we would do these things, that all of a sudden, it’s going to work. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is I think there’s a genuine prospect to significantly improve relations between our two countries without us giving up a single, solitary thing based on principle and/or values.
Q There were no threats issued?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no. No. There were no threats. There were — as a matter of fact, I heard he quoted my mom and quoted other people today. There was — it was very, as we say — which will shock you, coming from me — somewhat colloquial. And we talked about basic, basic, fundamental things. There was a — it was — and you know how I am: I explain things based on personal basis. “What happens if,” for example.
And so, there are no threats, just simple assertions made. And no “Well, if you do that, then we’ll do this” — wasn’t anything I said. It was just letting him know where I stood; what I thought we could accomplish together; and what, in fact — if it was — if there were violations of American sovereignty, what would we do.
Q Can you share what you asked him about Afghanistan? What was your particular request for Afghanistan and the U.S. troops?
THE PRESIDENT: No, he asked us about Afghanistan. He said that he hopes that we’re able to maintain some peace and security, and I said, “That has a lot to do with you.” He indicated that he was prepared to, quote, “help” on Afghanistan — I won’t go into detail now; and help on — on Iran; and help on — and, in return, we told him what we wanted to do relative to bringing some stability and economic security or physical security to the people of Syria and Libya.
So, we had those discussions.
Q Thanks so much, Mr. President. Did you — you say that you didn’t issue any threats. Were there any ultimatums made when it comes to ransomware? And how will you measure success, especially when it comes to these working groups on Russian meddling and on cybersecurity?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s going to be real easy. They either — for example, on cybersecurity, are we going to work out where they take action against ransomware criminals on Russian territory? They didn’t do it. I don’t think they planned it, in this case. And they — are they going to act? We’ll find out.
Will we commit — what can we commit to act in terms of anything affecting violating international norms that negatively affects Russia? What are we going to agree to do?
And so, I think we have real opportunities to — to move. And I think that one of the things that I noticed when we had the larger meeting is that people who are very, very well-informed started thinking, “You know, this could be a real problem.” What happens if that ransomware outfit were sitting in Florida or Maine and took action, as I said, on their — their single lifeline to their economy: oil? That would be devastating. And they’re like — you could see them kind of go, “Oh, we do that,” but like, “Whoa.”
So it’s in — it’s in everybody’s interest that these things be acted on. We’ll see, though, what happens from these groups we put together.
Q Can I ask a quick follow-up question?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) The third one, yes. Go ahead.
Q Mr. President, when President Putin was questioned today about human rights, he said the reason why he’s cracking down on opposition leaders is because he doesn’t want something like January 6th to happen in Russia. And he also said he doesn’t want to see groups formed like Black Lives Matter. What’s your response to that, please?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) My response is kind of what I communicated — that I think that’s a — that’s a ridiculous comparison. It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer, and be held unaccountable than it is for people objecting and marching on the Capitol and saying, “You are not allowing me to speak freely. You are not allowing me to do A, B, C, or D.”
And so, they’re very different criteria.
Steve. Steve Holland, Reuters.
Q President — sorry — President Putin said he was satisfied with the answer about your comment about him being a “killer.” Could you give us your side on this? What did you tell him?
THE PRESIDENT: He’s satisfied. Why would I bring it up again? (Laughs.)
Q And now that you’ve talked to him, do you believe you can trust him?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, this is not about trust; this is about self-interest and verification of self-interest. That’s what it’s about. So, I — virtually almost — almost anyone that I would work out an agreement with that affected the American people’s interests, I don’t say, “Well, I trust you. No problem.” Let’s see what happens.
You know, as that old expression goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” We’re going to know shortly.
Igor, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.
Q Hello, Mr. President. Hello, Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: You want to go on the shade? You can’t — can you see?
Q Thank you. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: All right.
Q Yeah. So, I think you know attacks in civil society and the free — free press continue inside Russia.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q For example, Radio Free Europe —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q — Radio Liberty; Voice of America; Current Time TV channel, where I work, are branded foreign agents — and several other independent media. So, we are essentially being forced out in Russia 30 years after President Yeltsin invited us in.
My question is: After your talks with President Putin, how interested do you think he is in improving the media climate in Russia?
THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn’t put it that way, in terms of improving the climate. I would, in fact, put it in terms of how much interest does he have in burnishing Russia’s reputation that is not — is viewed as not being contrary to democratic principles and free speech.
That’s a judgment I cannot make. I don’t know. But it’s not because I think he — he is interested in changing the nature of a closed society or closed government’s actions relative to what he thinks is the right of government to do what it does; it’s a very different approach.
And, you know, there’s a couple of really good biogra- — I told him I read a couple — I read most everything he’s written and the speeches he’s made. And — and I’ve read a couple of very good biographies, which many of you have as well.
And I think I pointed out to him that Russia had an opportunity — that brief shining moment after Gorbachev and after things began to change drastically — to actually generate a democratic government. But what happened was it failed and there was a great, great race among Russian intellectuals to determine what form of government would they choose and how would they choose it.
And based on what I believe, Mr. Putin decided was that Russia has always been a major international power when it’s been totally united as a Russian state, not based on ideology — whether it was going back to Tsar and Commissar, straight through to the — the revolution — the Russian Revolution, and to where they are today.
And I think that it’s clear to me — and I’ve said it — that I think he decided that the way for Russia to be able to sustain itself as a great — quote, “great power” is to in fact unite the Russian people on just the strength of the government — the government controls — not necessarily ideologically, but the government.
And I think that’s the — that’s the choice that was made. I think it — I — I’m not going to second guess whether it could have been fundamentally different. But I do think it does not lend itself to Russia maintaining itself as one of the great powers in the world.
Q Sir, one more question —
Q One more on COVID — on COVID-19, Mr. President —
Q Sir, could we ask you one more question, please, sir? Thank you, sir. Did military response ever come up in this conversation today? Did you — in terms of the red lines that you laid down, is military response an option for a ransomware attack?
And President Putin had called you, in his press conference, an “experienced person.” You famously told him he didn’t have a soul. Do you now have a deeper understanding of him after this meeting?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President —
Q But on the military — military response, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we didn’t talk about military response.
Q In the spirit, Mr. President, of you saying that there is no substitute for face-to-face dialogue, and also with what you said at NATO that the biggest problems right now are Russia and China — you’ve spoken many times about how you have spent perhaps more time with President Xi than any other world leader.
So is there going to become a time where you might call him, old friend to old friend, and ask him to open up China to the World Health Organization investigators who are trying to get to the bottom of COVID-19?
THE PRESIDENT: Let’s get something straight. We know each other well; we’re not old friends. It’s just pure business.
Q So, I guess, my question would be that you’ve said that you were going to press China. You signed on to the G7 communiqué that said you — the G7 were calling on China to open up to let the investigators in. But China basically says they don’t want to be interfered with anymore. So, what happens now?
THE PRESIDENT: The impact — the world’s attitude toward China as it develops. China is trying very hard to project itself as a responsible and — and a very, very forthcoming nation; that they are trying very hard to talk about how they’re taking and helping the world in terms of COVID-19 and vaccines. And they’re trying very hard.
Look, certain things you don’t have to explain to the people of the world. They see the results. Is China really actually trying to get to the bottom of this?
One thing we did discuss, as I told you, in the EU and at the G7 and with NATO: What we should be doing and what I’m going to make an effort to do is rally the world to work on what is going to be the physical mechanism available to detect, early on, the next pandemic and have a mechanism by which we can respond to it and respond to it early. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. And we need to do that.
Q Any progress on the detained Americans, sir?
Q What did Putin say about Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed?
Q Sir, what do you say to the families of the detained Americans?
Q President Biden, why are you so confident Russia —
THE PRESIDENT: The families of the detained Americans, I have hope for.
Q Say it again; we can’t hear you.
THE PRESIDENT: I said the families of the detained Americans came up and we discussed it. We’re going to follow through with that discussion. I am — I am not going to walk away on that issue.
Q Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior. Where the hell — what do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident? I said —
Q You said in the next six months you’ll be able to determine —
THE PRESIDENT: I said — what I said was — let’s get it straight. I said: What will change their behavior is if the rest of world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything; I’m just stating a fact.
Q But given his past behavior has not changed and, in that press conference, after sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyberattacks; he downplayed human rights abuses; he even refused to say Aleksey Navalny’s name. So how does that account to a constructive meeting, as President — President Putin framed it?
THE PRESIDENT: If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.