Biden and Putin Depart Geneva After Summit

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
June 16, 2021 Updated: June 16, 2021

President Joe Biden is aboard Air Force One and is on his way back to Washington after Wednesday’s meeting at an 18th-century lakeside villa in Switzerland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had already departed for Moscow aboard his plane by the time Air Force One took off.

Both leaders flew out of Switzerland after holding solo news conferences and meeting for more than three hours.

Security was tight and access extremely limited to areas around the summit site.

The pair met for nearly four hours on Wednesday, first in a smaller session and later in a larger meeting that was expanded to include more officials from both sides and which lasted about 65 minutes.

Biden called it a discussion between “two great powers” and said it was “always better to meet face to face.” Putin said he hoped the talks would be “productive.”

Biden Open to Possible Prisoner Swap With Russia

Biden says after his meeting with Putin that he is “not going to walk away” from the plight of two Americans detained in Russia.

Speaking to reporters, Biden says he raised the imprisonment of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed in his meeting with Putin.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting in Geneva, Biden said: “We discussed it. I’m going to follow through with that discussion.”

Putin opened the door to possible discussions about a prisoner swap with the United States for the release of the Americans and said those conversations would continue. The United States did not immediately comment on Putin’s characterization of the discussion.

Biden Seeks Talks to Limit Cyberattack Targets

Biden said he and Putin agreed to further discussions on keeping certain types of critical infrastructure off-limits to cyberattacks. Biden also said they will have additional talks on the pursuit of criminals carrying out ransomware attacks.

Biden told reporters in Geneva that 16 types of critical infrastructure should be off-limits to cyberattacks, “period.” He said that includes the energy and water sector.

It comes after a ransomware attack in May on one of the largest pipeline operators in the United States forced the shutdown of fuel supplies to much of the East Coast for nearly a week. That attack is blamed on a Russian criminal gang. Russia has not cooperated with criminal investigations of ransomware and does not extradite suspects to the United States.

Discussion on ‘Arms Control Measures’

Biden says he and Putin discussed in detail the “next steps our countries should take on arms control measures” to reduce the risk of war.

At a news conference, Biden said this means that diplomats and military experts from both countries will meet for what he called a “strategic stability dialogue” to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.

He did not say when the talks would begin. The idea is to work out a way to set the stage for negotiations on an arms control deal to succeed the New START treaty that is set to expire in 2026.

Biden Stresses Human Rights in Talks With Putin

Biden says he stressed human rights issues in his meeting with Putin. That includes the cases of two Americans who Biden says are “wrongfully imprisoned” in Russia.

Biden also says he’ll continue to raise concerns about cases like Alexei Navalny, the jailed leader of the Russian opposition to Putin.

Biden adds that he’ll keep on airing concerns about issues of “fundamental human rights because that’s what we are.”

Russia, US to Hold Cybersecurity Talks

Putin says that he and Biden have agreed that their two nations will start consultations on cybersecurity.

After a meeting with Biden in Geneva, Putin said: “We believe that cybersecurity is important for the world in general, for the United States in particular, and for Russia as well.”

The Russian president said that the two countries “just need to abandon various insinuations, sit down at the expert level and start working in the interests of the United States and Russia.”

Putin charged that “most of the cyberattacks in the world are carried out from the cyber realm of the United States,” with Canada and Britain coming second and third.

However, the most damaging cyberattacks on record have been attributed by the United States and the European Union to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, including the NotPetya virus that did more than $10 billion in economic damage in 2017, hitting companies including shipping giant Maersk, the pharmaceutical company Merck and food company Mondolez.

While the United States, Canada, and Britain all engage in cyber espionage, the most damaging cyberattacks on record have come either from state-backed Russian hackers or Russian-speaking ransomware criminals who operate with impunity in Russia and allied nations.

Putin Says Navalny Deserved Prison Sentence

Putin says opposition leader Alexei Navalny got what he deserved when he was handed a prison sentence.

Navalny, Putin’s most ardent political foe, was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin—an accusation that Russian officials reject. In February, Navalny was given a 2 1/2-year prison term for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated.

Speaking after the summit with Biden in Geneva, Putin said Navalny received his due punishment for violating the terms of his probation, adding that he was aware that he was facing a prison sentence when he returned to Russia.

“He deliberately moved to be arrested,” Putin said, sticking to his habit of not mentioning Navalny by name.

Last week, a Moscow court outlawed the organizations founded by Navalny by labeling them extremist, the latest move in a campaign to silence dissent and bar Kremlin critics from running for parliament in September.

Biden, Putin Set ‘Consultations’ on Updating Nuclear Pact

Putin says an agreement has been reached to conduct U.S.-Russian negotiations on limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Putin said they agreed that the U.S. State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry would work out details for the talks.

Russia has long called for the start of strategic stability talks to potentially replace the New START treaty limiting nuclear weapons after it expires in 2026.

Washington broke off talks with Moscow in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and its military intervention in support of separatists in eastern Ukraine. Talks resumed in 2017 but gained little traction and failed to produce an agreement on extending the New START treaty.

Shortly after Biden took office in January, the two sides agreed to a five-year extension of the pact just days before it was due to expire.

Moscow has said it’s ready to include its prospective doomsday weapons—such as the Poseidon atomic-powered, nuclear-armed underwater drone and the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile—in the talks on condition the U.S. brings its missile defense and possible space-based weapons into the equation.

Putin Says No Hostility in Meeting With Biden

Putin has described the tone of the talks with Biden as “constructive” and said there was no hostility during the talks.

His remarks came at a news conference after he and Biden met in Geneva for a high-stakes summit amid tensions between the West and the Kremlin.

“Our assessment of many issues differ, but in my view both sides demonstrated the desire to understand each other and looks for ways to get our positions closer,” Putin said.

“The conversation was rather constructive,” he added.

Putin Says Russia, US to Return Ambassadors to Posts

Putin says he and Biden have agreed to return their ambassadors to their posts in a bid to lower tensions.

The return of ambassadors follows a diplomatic tug-of-war that saw deep cuts in diplomatic personnel.

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, was recalled from Washington about three months ago after Biden described Putin as a killer.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan left Moscow almost two months ago after Russia suggested he return to Washington for consultations.

Meeting Opens With Reporters Shoving

Biden’s summit with Putin began with minutes of unusually fierce shoving and shouting among U.S. and Russian journalists and security forces.

Organizers at Wednesday’s summit in Geneva opened the meeting room to journalists for what’s normally a few minutes of news media filming and shouting questions before talks start.

On Wednesday, however, Russian and U.S. security forces and officials initially blocked journalists as they tried to enter the site for the press spray.

The scene then devolved into minutes of chaos inside the meeting room.

American journalists described Russian security and news media grabbing them by the arms and clothes to try to hold them back. U.S. journalists tried to shoulder their way in, and a U.S. reporter was knocked to the ground.

Before the scene calmed, some in the crowd shouted they were being crushed in the melee.

Biden and Putin initially sat awkwardly in front of the press, but then watched and at times laughed at the tumult.

Biden nodded when a reporter asked if Putin could be trusted, but the White House quickly sent out a tweet insisting that the president was “very clearly not responding to any one question, but nodding in acknowledgment to the press generally.”

Putin ignored shouted questions from reporters, including if he feared jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The two leaders did shake hands—Biden extended his hand first and smiled at the stoic Russian leader—moments earlier when they posed with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland for the summit.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press