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Far apart at first summit, Biden and Putin agree to steps on cybersecurity, arms control

WorldJun 16, 2021 08:53PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. Flags of the U.S., Russia and Switzerland are pictured in the garden in front of villa La Grange, one day prior to the meeting of U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland June 15, 2021. Peter Klaunzer/Pool via R 2/2

By Steve Holland and Vladimir Soldatkin

GENEVA (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Wednesday to begin cybersecurity and arms control talks at a summit that highlighted their discord on those issues, human rights and Ukraine.

In their first meeting since he took office in January, Biden asked Putin how he would feel if a ransomware attack hit Russia's oil network, a pointed question making reference to the May shutdown of a pipeline that caused disruptions and panic-buying along the U.S. East Coast.

While Biden stressed that he did not make threats during the three-hour meeting, he said he outlined U.S. interests, including cybersecurity, and made clear to Putin that the United States would respond if Russia infringed on those concerns.

Both men used careful pleasantries to describe their talks in a lakeside Swiss villa, with Putin calling them constructive and without hostility and Biden saying there was no substitute for face-to-face discussions.

They also agreed to send their ambassadors back to each other's capitals. Russia recalled its envoy after Biden said in March that he thought Putin was a "killer." The United States recalled its ambassador soon after.

Putin said on Wednesday that he had been satisfied by Biden's explanation of the remark.

But there was no hiding their differences on issues such as human rights, where Biden said the consequences for Russia would be "devastating" if jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny died, or cyberspace, where Washington has demanded Moscow crack down on ransomware attacks emanating from Russian soil.

"I looked at him and said: 'How would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?' He said: 'It would matter,'" Biden told reporters at an unusual solo news conference, itself an illustration of the tensions between the two nations.

The query referred to a cyberattack that closed the Colonial Pipeline Co system for several days in May, preventing millions of barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from flowing to the East Coast from the Gulf Coast.

Biden also vowed to take action against any Russian cyberattacks: "I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it."

'THIS IS NOT ABOUT TRUST'

Speaking to reporters before Biden, Putin dismissed U.S. concerns about Navalny, Russia's increased military presence near Ukraine's eastern border and U.S. suggestions that Russians were responsible for the cyberattacks on the United States.

He also suggested Washington was in no position to lecture Moscow on rights, batting away question about his crackdown on political rivals by saying he was trying to avoid the "disorder" of a popular movement, such as Black Lives Matter.

"What we saw was disorder, disruption, violations of the law, etc. We feel sympathy for the United States of America, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory and we'll do our utmost in order to not allow it to happen,” he said.

He also seemed to question the legitimacy of arresting the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, seeking to stop Biden's certification as president after he beat his predecessor, Donald Trump, in the November election by over 7 million votes.

Biden said any comparison between what happened on Jan. 6 and the Black Lives Matter movement was "ridiculous."

U.S.-Russia relations have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. charges - denied by Moscow - of meddling in the 2016 election won by Trump.

Neither side gave details on how their planned cybersecurity talks might unfold, although Biden said he told Putin that critical infrastructure should be "off-limits" to cyberattacks, saying that included 16 sectors that he did not publicly identify.

"We need some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by," Biden said he had told Putin.

Biden said he raised human rights issues because it was in the "DNA" of his country to do so, and also because of the fate of U.S. citizens jailed in Russia.

Putin said he believed some compromises could be found, although he gave no indication of any prisoner exchange deal.

Putin, 68, called Biden, 78, a constructive, experienced partner, and said they spoke "the same language." But he added that there had been no friendship, rather a pragmatic dialogue about their two countries' interests.

"President Biden has miscalculated who he is dealing with," said U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (NYSE:GHM), who is close to Trump. He called it "disturbing" to hear Biden suggest that Putin cared about his standing in the world.

Trump was accused by both Democrats and some Republicans of not being tough enough on Putin, particularly during a jovial 2018 meeting in Helsinki between the two leaders.

This time, there were separate news conferences and no shared meal.

Both Biden and Putin said they shared a responsibility, however, for nuclear stability, and would hold talks on possible changes to their recently extended New START arms limitation treaty.

In February, Russia and the United States extended New START for five years. The treaty caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads they can deploy and limits the land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.

A senior U.S. official told reporters that Biden, Putin, their foreign ministers and interpreters met first for 93 minutes. After a break, the two sides met for 87 minutes in a larger group including their ambassadors.

Putin said it was "hard to say" if relations would improve, but that there was a "glimpse of hope."

"This is not about trust, this is about self-interest and verification of self-interest," Biden said, but he also cited a "genuine prospect" of improving relations.

Far apart at first summit, Biden and Putin agree to steps on cybersecurity, arms control
 

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Comments (16)
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 17, 2021 3:15AM ET
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China is a rogue nation. it building slave labor camps for it's religious and cultural minorities. its going to end badly for their leadership and supporters. Putin is nervous he knows they can't be trusted.
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 17, 2021 2:53AM ET
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Putin will do what he's told, by Biden, or face the consquences. Putin's thievery and incompetence has damaged the long term possibilities for Russian economic development and has made Russia vulnerable ro economic dislocationan and political instability.Putin ether goes along or he will become a political liability to the Russian elites and be removed.
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Jun 17, 2021 1:50AM ET
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The G7 laughed at Biden. Putin must think “what in the *******went wrong with the USA”?
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Jun 17, 2021 1:50AM ET
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Delisional
ben sc
ben sc Jun 16, 2021 6:21PM ET
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Xiden said he was a *****now he's doing one on one summits with notes. Hard to spin this as a victory for Xiden.
David David
David9 Jun 16, 2021 6:19PM ET
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China will probably be the nicest Superpower... China will not use their military until someone try to take their land.... besides that, China is all about economics and making money in a win win scenario for all...
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 6:19PM ET
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China is about, lying stealing, brutality, slave labor prison camps and political oppression.
Miles Mathewson
Miles Mathewson Jun 16, 2021 6:16PM ET
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Old Biden and US don't stand a chance against Putin and Xi together !
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 6:16PM ET
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that's what the far right said about the authoritarian dictatorships, Italy, japan and Germany just before ww2. and we saw how that turned out. authoritarian dictatorships loss when they push the world into war. because their military leaders usually got those positions because of loyalties to the dictator not competence. it will be no different for China and Russia.
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 6:16PM ET
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Putin and xi couple of real loosers trying to be something there not,.....compatent leaders.
Ferdinando Riboni
Ferdinando Riboni Jun 16, 2021 6:03PM ET
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Biden looked scared..
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 6:03PM ET
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it's Putin coming hat in hand to be schooled by Biden.
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Jun 16, 2021 5:17PM ET
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Trump woulda simped for Putin and claimed the US Intel was bad.
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 5:17PM ET
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which is what happened in Helsinki. Trump was scared Putin would rat him out about his little ta D ta with Russian prostitutes. and the not so secret business deals with Putin. so trump was willing to lick Putin's boots to show fiety and keep him quiet.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Jun 16, 2021 4:08PM ET
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Sounds like Putin has nothing to be worried about.  So much for the tough talk and harsh rhetoric by Biden and the Dems.
Bonney Lake
Bonney Lake Jun 16, 2021 4:08PM ET
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better than the ally with tru.mp, they're buddies.
Connecticut Yankee
A_Jaundiced_Eye Jun 16, 2021 4:05PM ET
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"...the list of organizations that should be off-limits included 16 sectors that he did not identify." Let's see if we can guess: NY Times, Wash.Post, DNC, PBS, CNN, ... OK to hack: RNC, Fox News, TX state govt., FL state govt,
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Jun 16, 2021 4:05PM ET
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Baby need his booboo?
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 2:37PM ET
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Flippy Daniel David 9r... Putin's running scared. he needs the West to servive politically. without investment from the western democracies to diversify and grow his economy. China will become a serious threat to Russia. with population falling and a single source economy. China views Russia as a weak country easily, over time, manipulated and controlled.
Show previous replies (4)
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 2:37PM ET
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David9 China is an authoritarian state. authoritarians states have no friends. only convenient temporary relationships.
David David
David9 Jun 16, 2021 2:37PM ET
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History tells a lot about a country... For 5000 years, China has not venture out of their borders. The last time China has fore a bullet was in the 50s, so the fearmongering does not match with history...
David David
David9 Jun 16, 2021 2:37PM ET
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Michael Lynch I see Russia and China stayed friends in a win win relation for decades to come...
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Jun 16, 2021 2:37PM ET
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Building islands in international waters of the South China Sea don't count, eh?
David David
David9 Jun 16, 2021 2:37PM ET
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They have historic nine dash lines that shows they owned and claim South China Sea. If they give that back, then everyone should go back...
David David
David9 Jun 16, 2021 2:29PM ET
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US does not know how to do diplomacy... that is why nothing ever gets agreed... to create diplomacy, the mind set has to be in a win/win state. Not I win, you lose... there is no yin yang...
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 2:29PM ET
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David9you are obviously having trouble with the dominance and supirority of American diplomacy on the world stage. Biden has given Putin his marching orders. if Putin wants to survive politically and Russia economically, he will do as he has been told to do by Biden.
David David
David9 Jun 16, 2021 2:29PM ET
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No, this mentality will never work on the international stage... give one example that it has worked... the days of a Superpower acting over all with force is over... the world needs a win win mentality...
Miles Mathewson
Miles Mathewson Jun 16, 2021 2:29PM ET
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Exactly...US demanding this is not diplomacy. The time when the watchdog could do whatever is over
Steve Lora
Steve Lora Jun 16, 2021 11:41AM ET
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Biden had a 30 brain freeze yesterday. His health is rapidly deteriorating. At one point, he started wondering around and jill biden quickly leaped into action and grabbed him, then took him off stage.
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 11:41AM ET
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I see Dr Steve oh that's right your not his doctor. so stop the b×s.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Jun 16, 2021 11:41AM ET
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Ad Cline  His comment is fact, there is footage of it all over YouTube.  You don't have to be a doctor to see something isn't right with Biden.
Josh Modern
JoshModern Jun 16, 2021 10:48AM ET
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biden isn't a bully. if you think that orange po s was tough then you got personal issues and fail to understand emotional iq
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Jun 16, 2021 10:48AM ET
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Biden just approved the Nord Stream pipeline giving Putin unfettered access to EU market.
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 10:48AM ET
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he does not have unfetered access to European markets. then there are the sanctions. selling gas gives him cash to support his prison systems, and a few consumer trickets to keep his flunkies happy.
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Jun 16, 2021 10:02AM ET
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Biden will not do press conference by Putin side because then the world would see how weak he looks
Ad Cline
Ad Cline Jun 16, 2021 10:02AM ET
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floppy Daniel.. Putin hasn't "earned" the privilege of sharing a press conference stage with President Biden.
Miles Mathewson
Miles Mathewson Jun 16, 2021 10:02AM ET
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Ad Cline  see  This is how americans think...a true shame !
John Avenetti
John Avenetti Jun 16, 2021 9:54AM ET
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We're still talking about Trump as if this diaper wearing little girl lover is the savior we needed. LOL
 
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