U.S. President Joe Biden said his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin showed the prospect for the two countries’ relationship to “significantly improve,” but warned against cyberattacks and violations of human rights.
The two had a highly anticipated meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in Britain. They held separate news conferences after the summit, which Biden said was a “test” for their future relationship.
“I am not sitting here saying because the president and I agreed that we would do these things that all of a sudden it’s going to work,” Biden told reporters. “I’m not saying that. What I am saying is I think there’s a genuine prospect to significantly improve the relations between our two countries, without us giving up a single, solitary thing based on principle and our values.”
Biden described the meeting as generally “positive,” adding that “I did what I came to do.”
He said he pressed Putin on human rights abuses, specifically the detainment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“I made it clear to [Putin] the consequences would be devastating for Russia” if Navalny died in prison, Biden said.
Biden also gave Putin a list of 16 infrastructure sites that should be considered off-limits for cyberattacks.
“I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability and he knows it. I pointed out, if they violate basic norms, we will respond.
“I think the last thing he wants now is a cold war.”
Putin also met with the press after the inaugural in-person meeting between the two leaders.
We believe the sphere of cybersecurity is extremely important for the world in general – including for the United States, and for Russia to the same degree,” Putin told reporters.
The Biden administration extended a crucial nuclear weapons treaty with Russia for five more years. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, is the only arms control treaty in place between Washington and Moscow.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. Like the INF Treaty, New START limits the nuclear arsenals of Washington and Moscow.
Putin said the goal for the meeting of the world’s biggest nuclear powers was to make the world a safer place to live in.
“This was a productive meeting. It was fruitful,” Putin said. “It was to-the-point and it took place in an atmosphere that was enabling to accomplish something.”
The summit took place at the 18th-century Swiss Villa La Grange in Geneva, along the coast of a lake near the French border. The two leaders met there and were photographed exchanging greetings before they went inside for a photo opportunity that preceded the private meeting.