Joe Biden, offering a bit of a preview of their summit on Wednesday, said that he agreed with Vladimir Putin that U.S.-Russian relations were at a “low point.”
“I think he’s right that it is at a low point, and it depends on how he responds to acting consistent with international norms, which in many cases he has not,” said Biden, at his first overseas press conference in Cornwall, England, the site of the G7 meeting.
Biden said that he had previously informed Putin that he would respond if it was found that the Russian president was engaged in cyber security breaches and election interference. “I did and I checked it out, so I had access to all the intelligence, he was engaged in those activities. I did respond and made it clear that I would respond again.”
Biden answered questions from six reporters at the press conference. The AP’s Jonathan Lemiere asked Biden about Putin’s comments but also the fact that there would be no joint press conference, as has been a tradition, with the Russian leader after their meeting on Wednesday.
“I don’t mean that the press should not know, but this is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference and try to embarrass each other. It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship … with Russia. We’re not looking for conflict. We are looking to resolve those actions we believe are inconsistent with international norms.” He said that they also will talk about where they can work together, perhaps on climate. He also said that he was open to Putin’s offer of handing over cyber criminals if the U.S. did the same.
Biden, asked by NBC News’ Peter Alexander about changing Putin’s behavior, was a bit more sobering that that would happen. “He’s Vladimir Putin.”
Biden also addressed a G-7 Communique which calls for investigating the Covid-19 origins in China. That has been a focus of U.S. intelligence, as to whether the coronavirus origins came from a bat-to-human transmission or from a lab in Wuhan province, or an “experiment gone awry,” Biden said. “It’s important to know the answer to that,” he said.
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