President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Wednesday for the first time since Mr. Biden took office, at a summit in Geneva that the Russian president described as “constructive,” while Mr. Biden said he “did what I came to do.”
Both leaders addressed reporters in separate news conferences after the roughly three hours of meetings that included discussions of cybersecurity and arms control, among other topics. The two leaders released a joint statement after their respective news conferences affirming that “even during periods of tension,” they can make progress on “ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.”
Biden told reporters that Putin “knows I will take action” in working to stop Russia from engaging in malign activities like interfering in U.S. elections, engaging in hacking attacks, like those targeting SolarWinds and ransomware attacks on U.S. companies. Mr. Biden added Putin “knows there are consequences” and said Russia’s credibility “shrinks” when it participates in cyberattacks.
Still, when pressed by reporters on whether he was confident Putin would change his behavior, Mr. Biden said “I’m not confident of anything.”
The president also said Putin knew there would be consequences if jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny dies.
Putin, meanwhile, at his press conference, did not address Navalny by name, but said Navalny had deliberately broken the law and wanted to be arrested when he returned to Russia after receiving treatment in Germany for his near-fatal poisoning. Navalny, the U.S. and western countries blame his poisoning on Russia.
The Russian president skirted the topic of Ukraine after NATO affirmed Ukraine’s sovereignty at its recent meeting in Brussels.
Addressing reporters on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One, Mr. Biden apologized for losing his temper with CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins, saying he was being a “wise guy.” Mr. Biden said his first foreign trip showed “America is back” and said he owes world leaders a “”debt of gratitude” for backing him in Putin talks.
Mr. Biden told reporters there is a value in being both “realistic” and putting on a “optimistic face” after telling reporters they only ask negative questions. “I started working on arms agreements going back to the Cold War. If we could do one during the Cold War, we could do one now,” Mr. Biden said.
Follow along below for updates from Biden-Putin summit as it happened: