President Joe Biden just laughed when a reporter asked if he believes the few hours he will spend with Vladimir Putin next week will instantly change the mercurial Russian president’s behavior.
The U.S. commander in chief offered a toothy grin, then turned to face the reporter who asked the question following remarks in Cornwall, England, where he held meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the G-7 summit.
“Mr. President do you think your meeting with Vladimir Putin … will change his behavior in a way that sanctions haven’t?” the reporter, who was off-camera, asked Thursday.
Biden first grinned and looked at the ground as he left his lectern. But then the president slowed his gait and turned toward the journalist with a wide smile. He did not, however, provide a verbal description of what his smile meant.
But there have been clues in his and his top national security aides’ descriptions of the goals for the June 16 Putin summit in Geneva, Switzerland.
For weeks, the White House has painted the meeting as a chance for Biden to issue stern warnings to Putin on a number of matters.
That list includes recent ransomware attacks on companies that provide gasoline and meat products to millions in the United States, Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and across Eastern Europe, and its disinformation campaign in many countries — including the U.S., with its 2016 election meddling.
“So, our basic view on this is that all ransomware attacks are crimes. They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and every responsible nation should take action against the criminals who are conducting them and should not harbor them in any way,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters traveling with Biden on Air Force One on Wednesday. “The President (Biden) will talk to President Putin about our concerns on this front.
“We do not judge that the Russian government has been behind these recent ransomware attacks, but we do judge that actors in Russia have,” he added. “And we believe that Russia can take and must take steps to deal with it.”
Asked later what Biden, then vice president, learned during a one-on-one meeting with the Russian leader a decade ago, Sullivan made clear again his boss’s goals for the much-anticipated meeting.
“Bottom line: He believes you need to be clear, direct, and straightforward in every aspect of the engagement with Vladimir Putin,” the security adviser said. “And that’s what he intends to do.”
The president himself has suggested he is playing a long game vis a vis the Russian strongman, using part of his Memorial Day address to promise straight talk to Putin.
“I had a long conversation for two hours recently with [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping], making it clear to him we could do nothing but speak out for human rights around the world because that’s who we are,” Biden said. “I’ll be meeting with [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin in a couple weeks in Geneva, making it clear that we will not stand by and let him abuse those rights.”
And upon his arrival in the U.K., the American president, also a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, set another expectation for his Putin meeting: to bring about a more predictable relationship between the nuclear-armed countries.
“We’re not seeking conflict with Russia,” he said at RAF Mildenhall. “We want a stable and predictable relationship. … But I’ve been clear: The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities.”
Biden’s cagey laugh can be seen at the end of this archived video.
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Original Author: John T. Bennett