Jun 16, 2021
Joe Biden Press Conference Transcript After Meeting with Putin
President Joe Biden held a press conference after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech remarks after the summit here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
President Joe Biden: (00:03)
Been a long day for y’all. I know it was easy getting into the pre-meeting. There was no problem getting through those doors. Was it? Was it? Anyway.
President Joe Biden: (00:17)
Hello everyone. Well, I’ve just finished the last meeting of this week’s long trip, the US Russian summit. And I know there were a lot of hype around this meeting, but it’s pretty straight forward to me, the meeting. One, there’s no substitute as those of you have covered me for a while know for face-to-face dialogue between leaders, none, and President Putin and I share unique responsibility to manage the relationship between two powerful and proud countries. A relationship that has to be stable and predictable, and we should be able to cooperate where it’s in our mutual interest and where we have differences I wanted President Putin 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 interest.
President Joe Biden: (01:22)
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, re-establishing relationships around the world, our allies and friends, and protecting the American 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 and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have in our view. That’s just part of the DNA of our country. “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?
President Joe Biden: (02:23)
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. The forum I pointed out to him that that’s why we’re going to raise our concerns about cases like Alexei 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 truth self-evident that all men and women. We haven’t lived up to the completely, but we’ve always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.
President Joe Biden: (03:20)
I raised a case of two wrongfully imprisoned American citizens, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reid. I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe or Radio Liberty to operate and, 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. This is the road that we can all abide by.
President Joe Biden: (03:52)
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. That is to discuss and raise the issue of strategic stability and try to set up a mechanism where why we dealt with it. We discussed in detail the next steps our country’s to take on arms control measures. The steps we need to take to reduce the risk of unintended conflict. I’m pleased he agreed today to launch a bilateral strategic stability dialogue, diplomatic speak for saying, “Get our military experts and our diplomats together to work in 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 raised the prospects of accidental war.” We went into some detail on what those weapons systems were.
President Joe Biden: (05:07)
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 US 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. We agreed to task experts in 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, in either of our countries.
President Joe Biden: (06:07)
There’s a long list of other things we spent time on from the urgent need to preserve and reopen the humanitarian [inaudible 00:06:14] in Syria so that we can get food, just simple food and basic necessities to people are starving to death. 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 as much as Russia’s interest as ours and to how we can ensure the Arctic remains and it region of cooperation, rather than conflict. I caught part of President Putin’s press conference and he talked about the need for us to be able to have some kind of modus operandi where he 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 the resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan. It’s very much in the interest of Russia not to have a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden: (07:15)
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 concern about Belarus. He didn’t disagree with what happened, he just has a different perspective what to do about it, but I know you have a lot of questions so let me close with this.
President Joe Biden: (07:45)
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 five 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. Three to clearly lay out our country’s priorities and our values so he heard it straight from me. I must tell you, the tone of the entire meetings, I guess it was total four hours was good, positive. There wasn’t any strident action taken. Where we disagreed, I disagreed, stated at 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
President Joe Biden: (09:03)
We rallied our fellow democracies to make 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 US Russia relationship. There’s much more work ahead. I’m not suggesting that any of this has done. We’ve gotten a lot of business done on this trip.
President Joe Biden: (09:24)
And before I take your questions, I want to say one last thing. Folks, look, this is about how we move from here. 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.
President Joe Biden: (10:23)
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, 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.
President Joe Biden: (10:47)
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.
Thank you, sir. US intelligence has said that Russia tried to interfere in the last two presidential elections and that Russia groups are behind hacks like Solar Winds 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?
President Joe Biden: (11:26)
I stopped it from happening again. He knows I will take actions like we did this last time out. What happened was we in fact made it clear that we were not going to continue to allow us to go on. The end result was we ended up withdrawing ambassadors, we closed down some of their facilities in the United States, et cetera. He knows there are consequences. Look, one of the consequences that I know… I don’t know. I shouldn’t say. It’s unfair of me. I suspect may all think doesn’t matter, but I’m confident matter to him and other world leaders of big nations.
President Joe Biden: (12:07)
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 engage in activities that he’s 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 able to dictate what happens in the world. There are other nations of significant consequence, IE the United States of America being one of them.
Mr. President, just a quick follow up on the same theme of consequences. You said just now that you spoke to him a lot about human rights. What do you say would happen if opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies?
President Joe Biden: (13:11)
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 the Navalny, 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 it was important to continue to have problems with the president of Syria. I said because his violation of international norm. It’s called the chemical weapons treaty. Can’t be trusted. It’s about trust. It’s about their ability to influence other nations in a positive way.
President Joe Biden: (14:03)
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 the 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 national norms, then guess what? That not only won’t 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 and 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 have pointed out, you want to get American business to invest, let him go. Change the dynamic because American businessman, they’re not ready to show up. They don’t want to hang around in Moscow.
President Joe Biden: (15:06)
Look guys, I know we make foreign policy out to be this great, great skill that somehow is sort of like a secret code. All foreign policies 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.” By the way, that was a joke. That’s not true. But my generic point is it is more complicated than that. David Sanger. I thought I saw David. There he is.
David Sanger: (16:02)
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-
President Joe Biden: (16:19)
[inaudible 00:16:19] take my coat off. The sun is hot.
David Sanger: (16:22)
Anything that would make you think that Mr. Putin has decided to move away from his fundamental role as a disruptor, particularly a disruptor 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?
President Joe Biden: (16:53)
I’ll answer your second question first. I pointed out to him 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 cyberly. He knows. In a cyber way.
President Joe Biden: (17:18)
Number two, 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 you a rhetorical question. You got a multi thousand mile border with China. China’s moving ahead, hell bent on election as they say, seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world, 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. I don’t think he’s looking for a cold war with the United States. I don’t think-
President Joe Biden: (18:03)
… 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 were about 10 years apart. This is not a kumbaya moment as we used to say back in the sixties, 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. And 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.
Jennifer Jacobs: (18:55)
Oh, thanks. 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, 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? And also, did you touch on Afghanistan and the safe withdrawal of troops?
President Joe Biden: (19:26)
Yes. Yes, yes and yes. Let me go back to the first part. The reason it didn’t go longer is when the last time two heads of state have spent over two hours in direct conversation across the table, going into excruciating detail. You may know a time, I don’t. I can’t think of one. So we didn’t need, as we got through, and we brought in the larger group, our defense, our intelligence and my foreign minister … 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. Laberoff and Blinken talked about what we covered. We raised things that required more amplification or made sure we didn’t have any misunderstandings. And so it was kind of after two hours there, we looked at each other like, okay, what next?
President Joe Biden: (20:28)
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? 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 the relations between our two countries, without us giving up a single solitary thing based on principle and our values.
Jennifer Jacobs: (21:12)
So there were no threats?
President Joe Biden: (21:15)
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. It was very, as we say, which will shock you coming from me, somewhat colloquial. And we talked about basic fundamental things. It was, and you know how I am. I explained things based on personal basis. What happens if, for example. And so there were no threats just simple assertions made and no, well, if you do that, then we’ll do this, with anything I said. It was just letting him know where I stood, what I thought we could accomplish together, and what, in fact, if there were violations of American sovereignty, what we would do.
Jennifer Jacobs: (22:02)
Making sure, when you said you asked him about Afghanistan. What was your particular request? Was there a [inaudible 00:22:08].
President Joe Biden: (22:08)
No, he asked us about Afghanistan. He said that he hopes that we’re able to maintain some peace of 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 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. Yamiche.
Thanks so much, Mr. President. 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 cyber security?
President Joe Biden: (23:03)
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 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 effects Russia? What are we going to agree to do? And so I think we have real opportunities to move.
President Joe Biden: (23:36)
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, 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 single lifeline to their economy? Oil. It’d be devastating. And they’re like, you could see them kind of go, oh, we do that. But like, whoa. And everybody’s interested these things be acted on. We’ll see though, what happens from these groups. We put together.
Can I ask a quick follow up question?
President Joe Biden: (24:18)
The third one. Yes, go ahead.
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?
President Joe Biden: (24:37)
My response is kind of what I communicated, that I think 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, marching on a Capitol and saying you are not allowing me to speak freely, you’re not allowing me to do A, B, C, or D. And so they’re very different criteria. Steve. Steve Holland, Reuters.
Steve Holland: (25:15)
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?
President Joe Biden: (25:27)
He’s satisfied. Why would I bring it up again?
Steve Holland: (25:30)
But now that you’ve talked to him, do you believe you can trust him?
President Joe Biden: (25:35)
Look, this is not about trust. This is about self-interest and verification of self-interest. That’s what it’s about. So virtually almost anyone that I would work out an agreement with that affected the American people’s interest, I don’t say well, I trust you, no problem. Let’s see what happens. 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.
Hello, Mr. President. Hello, Mr. President.
President Joe Biden: (26:11)
You want to go in the shade? You can’t, can you see?
Thank you. Yeah, yeah.
President Joe Biden: (26:14)
Speaker 1: (26:14)
Yeah. So I think you know, attacks in a civil society and the free press continue inside Russia.
President Joe Biden: (26:25)
For example, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Voice of America, Current Time TV channel where I work, a brand that 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?
President Joe Biden: (27:01)
I wouldn’t put it that way. In terms of …
President Joe Biden: (27:03)
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 viewed as not being contrary to democratic principles and free speech? That’s a judgment I can not make. I don’t know, but it’s not because I think he’s 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 there’s a couple of really good … I told him, I read most everything he’s written and the speeches he’s made. And I’ve read a couple of very good biographies, which many of you have as well. And 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.
President Joe Biden: (28:17)
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 czar and commissar as trade through to 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 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 choice that was made. 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.
Speaker 2: (29:41)
Sir, let me ask you one more question. Sir? Thank you sir. Did military response ever come up in this conversation today? In terms of the red lines that you laid down, is military response and 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?
President Joe Biden: (30:12)
Thank you very much.
Speaker 2: (30:15)
But on the military response, sir?
President Joe Biden: (30:18)
No, we didn’t talk about military response.
Speaker 3: (30:21)
[crosstalk 00:30:21] you said that there was not 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’ve 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 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?
President Joe Biden: (30:54)
Let’s get something straight, we know each other well, we’re not old friends. It’s just pure business.
Speaker 3: (31:00)
I guess my question would be, you’ve said that you were going to press China. You signed onto the G7 communique that said 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?
President Joe Biden: (31:18)
The impact, the world’s attitude toward China as it develops. China is trying very hard to project itself as a responsible and very, very forthcoming nation. That they are fighting 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 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. Thank you.
What did Putin say about [crosstalk 00:01:46].
President Biden: (01:46)
Americans I have hope for you.
Speaker 4: (01:46)
Say again, we can’t hear you.
President Biden: (01:46)
I said the families of the detained Americas came up and we discussed it. We’re going to follow through with that discussion. I am not going to walk away on that.
Speaker 5: (01:56)
Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?
President Biden: (02:01)
Again, I’m not confident he’ll change the behavior. Where the hell…What do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident?
Speaker 5: (02:04)
You said in the next six months you’ll be able to determine.
President Biden: (02:07)
What I said was, let’s get it straight. I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and they diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything. I’m just stating the fact.
Speaker 5: (02:20)
But given his pa
Speaker 5: (02:20)
st behavior has not changed, and in that press conference after sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyber attacks. He downplayed human rights abuses he refused to say Alexi Navalny’s name. So how does that account to a constructive meeting as President? President Putin-
President Biden: (02:38)
If you don’t understand that you’re in the wrong business.
Is the summit with China next?