Biden Reveals Why He Won’t Hold a Joint Press Conference With Putin

June 13, 2021 Updated: June 13, 2021

President Joe Biden revealed on June 13 why he decided to avoid a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland next week.

“I always found, and I don’t mean to suggest the press should not know, but this is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass each other,” Biden told reporters at a press conference at the Cornwall Airport Newquay in England.

“It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship are with Russia.”

In 2018, when President Donald Trump met with Putin in person and held a joint news conference, corporate media outlets launched attacks against Trump and suggested the joint appearance meant the two had a cozy relationship. It came amid then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. Mueller, after a 22-month investigation, ultimately turned up “insufficient evidence” to support the allegations.

“I think the best way to deal with this is for he and I to meet, he and I to have our discussion. I know you don’t doubt that I’ll be very straightforward with him about our concerns, and I will make clear my view of how that meeting turned out and he’ll make clear from his perspective how it turned out,” Biden said.

Biden then seemed to make reference to the possibility that the meeting would trigger rampant speculation from the press.

“I don’t want to get into being diverted by, did they shake hands, who talked the most, and the rest,” he said.

During the Group of Seven (G-7) summit on June 13, the president said he would raise concerns during his meeting with Putin.

G7 Summit
Leaders of the G-7 pose for a group photo overlooking the beach at the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, on June 11, 2021.  (Patrick Semansky/Pool/AP Photo)

“We are not looking for conflict. We are looking to resolve those actions which we think are inconsistent with international norms, number one,” Biden said. “Number two, where we can work together. We may be able to do that in terms of some strategic doctrine that may be able to be worked together. We’re ready to do it.”

When asked about whether he believes that U.S.–Russia relations are at a low point—something Putin had said in recent days—Biden agreed.

“I think he’s right, it’s at a low point,” he said.

“It depends on how he responds to acting consistent with international norms, which in many cases he has not.”

But Biden said the poor relationship was the fault of Russia, and again alleged that Moscow engaged in malign behavior during U.S. elections, as well as cyberattacks against American infrastructure and industries. Biden also claimed, without providing details, that Putin was directly responsible for an unspecified cyberattack.

“I checked it out. I had access to all the intelligence. He was engaged in those activities—I can respond to that,” Biden told reporters on June 13. “This is not a contest about who can do better in a press conference, embarrass each other. It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions of our relationship are.”

The White House placed new sanctions on Russia following the sweeping SolarWinds breach and for alleged interference during the 2020 election. The FBI said that Russia-based groups were behind the SolarWinds cyberattack, which affected several federal agencies.

Biden said in a March interview with ABC News that he agreed with the claim that Putin is “a killer,” which prompted criticism from Russian officials. Putin in an interview with NBC last week brushed off the comments.

Putin, according to a Russian-to-English translation, attempted to tie Biden’s remarks in March to “some deep things in Hollywood” and “macho behavior” that can be “treated as cinematic.”

“So, as far as harsh rhetoric, I think that this is an expression of overall U.S. culture,” Putin said. “But that is part of U.S. political culture, where it’s considered normal. By the way, not here [in Russia]. … It is not considered normal here.”

The Department of Defense authorized $150 million in defense aid to Ukraine on June 11, amid renewed tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the Donbas region.

Earlier this year, there were large military movements of Russian troops and armor toward the eastern Ukraine border and into Crimea, sparking fears of a wider war, although in April the Kremlin signaled that it would attempt to deescalate tensions by withdrawing some of its forces.