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Biden: Putin a “worthy adversary”

Jun 14, 2021

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Two days ahead of President Joe Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden called Putin a “worthy adversary.”

Biden declined to say how he’ll measure the success of the meeting in advance.

Asked during a press conference after Monday’s NATO summit about the upcoming meeting, Biden wouldn’t offer any specifics on what he’s hoping to gain from his time with Putin.

Biden said they’ll discuss “areas where we can cooperate,” and he warned if Russia refuses to cooperate on issues like cybersecurity, “we will respond in kind.”

Biden said, however, that Putin is “bright” and “tough.” Biden expressed hopes the Russian president would show interest in “changing the perception the world has of him.”

When asked what would happen to the U.S.-Russia relationship if Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny were to die in prison, Biden said it “would be a tragedy.”

“Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has no interest in abiding by basic, fundamental human rights,” Biden said.

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Reporter: “What have you learned about him that informs how you approach this, sit down with him? And what’s your mindset walking into a meeting with a former KGB agent who you’ve said has no soul?”

President Biden: “I’ll tell you all that when it’s over. Look, I’ve been doing this a long time. The last thing anyone would do is negotiate in front of the world press as to how he’s going to approach a critical meeting with another adversary and or someone who could be an adversary. It’s the last thing I’m going to do. But I will tell you this. I’m going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate if he chooses. And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond. We will respond in kind. There need not be, we should decide where it’s in our mutual interest and in the interests of the world to cooperate. And see if we can do that. And the areas where we don’t agree, make it clear where the red lines are. I have met with him. He’s bright, he’s tough, and I have found that he is a, as they say, when you used to play ball, a worthy adversary. But the fact is that I will be happy to talk with you when it’s over, not before, about what the discussion will entail.”

Reporter: “Have any of the world leaders you’ve met with this week expressed concern that by meeting with President Putin this early in your presidency, that it’ll look like you’re rewarding him?”

President Biden: “Every world leader here that’s a member of NATO that spoke today and most never mentioned it, thanked me for meeting with Putin now. Every single one that spoke and I think there are probably about 10 or 12 that spoke to it, saying they were happy that I did that, that I was going to do that. And they thought it was thoroughly appropriate that I do. And I had discussions with them about, in the open, about what they thought was important from their perspective and what they thought was not important. And so the interesting thing is, I know and I’m not being critical of the press, I really mean this, give you my word. But generically, you all thought was is Biden meeting him too soon? I haven’t found a world leader who doesn’t think it’s not soon, just soon enough.”

“Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights. It would be a tragedy. It would do nothing but hurt his relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me.”