Biden Warns and Offers Rare Bit of Praise for Putin Ahead of Meeting

June 14, 2021 Updated: June 15, 2021

President Joe Biden said that while Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “worthy adversary,” he warned the Russian leader that the death of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny would hurt Moscow’s relations with the rest of the world.

“Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights,” Biden said during a NATO summit press conference on Monday, coming a day ahead of his scheduled meeting with Putin.

“It would be a tragedy. It would do nothing but hurt his relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me,” the president said.

Among other concerns, Western powers have expressed concerns about Russia’s treatment of Navalny, who has accused Putin of poisoning him. Previously, Biden called on the Russian president to release Navalny.

The president also made mention of Ukraine, which has been subject to renewed fighting and military tensions in its eastern Donbas region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently began pushing for Ukraine to be accepted into NATO amid reports Russia still has a heavy deployment of troops and armor along the border.

“I shared with our allies what I’ll convey to President Putin, that I’m not looking for conflict with Russia, but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities. We will not fail to defend the transatlantic alliance or stand up for democratic values. As allies, we also affirmed our continued support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Biden said.

Epoch Times Photo
Then-Vice President Joe Biden (L), shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on March 10, 2011. The pair are set to meet in Geneva in June 2021. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo)

But also on Monday, Biden offered a rare bit of praise for Putin.

“He’s bright, he’s tough, and I’ve found that he is—as they say when I used to play ball—a worthy adversary,” Biden said of Putin.

During the NATO meeting, Biden affirmed his support for NATO, which was often derided by his predecessor. President Donald Trump frequently asserted that NATO member nations weren’t paying enough or contributing their fair share, forcing the United States to do all the heavy lifting.

NATO member states on Monday issued a sharp rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over its growing military ambitions.

The Group of Seven (G-7), a day before that, issued a similar statement about the CCP’s repeated human rights violations in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and in other areas, as well as unfair economic policies.

“As you know, the last time the G-7 met, there was no mention of China. But this time there is mention of China. The G-7 explicitly agreed to call out human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong,” Biden said Monday of the Group of Seven (G-7) meeting. “I know this is going to sound somewhat prosaic, but I think we’re in a contest, not with China per se, but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st century.”