Published On: Wed, Jun 16th, 2021

Biden-Putin Summit: A Pragmatic Approach Forging Areas of Mutual Interest

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By Janet Ekstract

GENEVA (TURKISH JOURNAL) – On Wednesday in Geneva after his three-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden opened his press conference by explaining that he was straightforward with Putin about what the U.S. will and won’t accept. To that end, Biden commented: “I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road we can abide by.” One of those basic rules Biden explained is that “Human rights is always going to be on the table, I told him.” The U.S. President added in reference to Putin: “I want him to understand why I say what I say and why I do what I do.”

Biden emphasized that the talks were thorough and that there was a definite positive environment in the room between both sides. He said he reiterated to Putin that “my agenda is for the American people,” and that no president of the U.S. could remain silent about violations of human rights in Russia or any other country because “democracy is what we’re about,” Biden said – adding “it’s in our DNA.” He said he made it clear to the Russian president “we will continue to make our voice known” on the issue of the two Americans being held in Russia and Russian activist Alexei Navalny’s situation. Biden said that he told Putin it would not be advantageous for Russia to have Navalny killed. Biden said that unlike Russia, “We don’t derive our rights from the government, we possess them because we’re born.”

The U.S. president highlighted that the areas he had on the agenda for discussion were all covered and that going forward, both countries have agreed to work together on areas of mutual interest. Those include the issue of strategic stability and all types of weapons systems which Biden said were discussed in great detail. He said that Putin agreed to participate in a future Bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue on the control and use of weapons systems. Cybersecurity was the second major issue Biden raised with the Russian leader and he said he made it quite clear that should there be a future cybersecurity breach like the Colonial Pipeline situation that the U.S. would retaliate with its own cybersecurity, in kind. He also said he told Putin there are 16 critical infrastructures that must be off limits to cyber-attacks. Biden added that both leaders agreed to come up with an agenda of which infrastructures will be strictly off limits to ransomware attacks.  Other crucial issues raised include opening humanitarian corridors in Syria, working together to ensure that Iran doesn’t have access to a nuclear weapons arsenal and to support Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Biden said that Putin offered his assistance with preventing a recurrence of terrorism and chaos in Afghanistan. With regard to Ukraine, Biden said he and Putin agreed to pursue a path of diplomacy utilizing the Minsk Protocol and Minsk-2 Agreement which is contingent on Ukraine having control of its own borders.

Meanwhile, Biden said his goal of finding areas of mutual interest where there are opportunities to create real results and “laying out” America’s values and purpose were achieved. When asked by the press if any real progress was made and if Biden thought Putin would actually change, Biden’s response was pragmatic. The U.S. president said that at the end of the day, it’s actions that speak volumes and that he was not going to predict one way or the other what Putin would or would not do. Biden reiterated that the way to encourage Russia to remain on track with Western allies is to be influenced by the international community reacting to any adverse actions Russia might choose to take in the future. Several hours after Biden’s press conference, the White House issued a formal statement via Twitter about the U.S. and Russia cooperating to regulate nuclear weapons and their use. He added that the “last thing” Putin wants is a Cold War and that the plain fact is, Biden said: “This is not about trust, this is about self-interest and verification of self-interest.”

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