Coming out of a face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin, President Joe Biden argued that the Russian president knows he needs to improve the country’s reputation on the international stage.
Putin is afraid, Biden conjectured, that “his credibility in the world is diminishing” as Russia’s human rights abuses, attacks on the free press, and reputation for interference in foreign elections increasingly define how the rest of the world considers the country.
“How would it be if the United States was seen by the rest of the world as directly interfering with the elections of other countries and everyone knew it?” Biden asked, referring to US intelligence findings that Russia attempted to interfere in the last two US presidential elections. “How would it be if we engaged in activities in which he is engaged?” It diminishes the reputation of a country that is desperately trying to ensure that it retains its position as a great world power. “
Biden, speaking to reporters in Geneva shortly after Putin held his own press conference, said they had had a productive conversation about avoiding conflict, accepting arms control measures, consequences of human rights violations and the detention of two American citizens in Russia – Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.
But moving forward on these issues requires a wait-and-see approach, Biden admitted.
“We will know in the next six months to a year whether or not we really have a strategic dialogue that matters,” said the president. “We will find out if we are working to handle everything from the release of people to Russian prisons or not. We’ll see if we have a cybersecurity deal that starts to clean up. “
But Putin, by Biden’s own admission, is far from a reliable negotiator. Biden confessed in 2014 that he had looked Putin in the eye before and said, “I don’t think you have a soul.”
However, Biden bristled when reporters asked how he could trust Putin.
“It’s not a matter of trust,” he said. “It’s about self-interest and self-interest verification.”
The President became visibly upset towards the end of his press conference as reporters continued to challenge him about it, especially when CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked him how he could be “so confident. [Putin] will change his behavior ”as the Kremlin chief just spent his press conference denying Russia’s role in any cyberattack, downplaying the country’s human rights violations and refusing to recognize Alexei Navalny, a virulent critic of Putin who is currently in jail in Russia.
Biden broke the characterization.
“I am not convinced that he will change his behavior. Where the hell do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident? … I said that what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their position in the world. I don’t trust anything. I am only stating the facts.
Biden then apologized to reporters before boarding Air Force One.
“I owe my last caller an apology,” he said. “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy for the answer I gave.”
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