Biden Says Putin’s Right on Poor U.S.-Russia Relations

President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin is correct that relations between their countries are at a nadir, suggesting that will be one of the few points of agreement when they meet Wednesday for their first summit.

“He’s right, it’s a low point,” Biden said Sunday in a news conference to conclude his participation at the Group of Seven summit in the U.K.

But Biden described the poor relationship as the fault of Russia, again criticizing alleged malign behavior by the Kremlin including U.S. election interference and recent cyber-attacks against U.S. industries. He blamed Putin personally for an unspecified cyber-attack.

“I checked it out. I had access to all the intelligence. He was engaged in those activities -- I can respond to that,” Biden said. “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.”

In April, the Biden administration issued new sanctions against Russia for attempted interference in the 2020 election and the SolarWinds Corp. hack that led to intrusions into the systems of several U.S. government agencies.

But Biden said he hopes to find some areas where the U.S. and Russia might cooperate, suggesting as an example the plight of refugees in Syria’s civil war -- though he repeatedly misidentified the country as “Libya” in his remarks.

“There’s a lot going on where we can work together with Russia. For example, in Libya, we should be opening up the passes to be able to go through to provide food assistance, economic -- I mean, vital assistance to a population that’s in real trouble,” he said.

“Russia has engaged in activities which we believe are contrary to international norms, but they have also bitten off some real problems that they’re going to have trouble chewing on, -- for example, the rebuilding of Syria, of Libya,” Biden said.

Biden and Putin are set to meet in Geneva on Wednesday as tensions between the two nations simmer over issues ranging from human rights to Russia’s military presence in the Arctic. The relationship was further strained after the U.S. linked cyberattacks against Colonial Pipeline Co. and meat producer JBS SA to groups in Russia.

Biden, who proposed the meeting, said he wants to establish “a stable, predictable relationship” with Moscow. The meeting is taking place at the end of Biden’s trip to the U.K. and Europe, where he will have conferred the G-7 leaders, NATO and the European Union.

The U.S. agenda for the meeting includes the ransomware and other cyber-attacks, Russian military actions in Ukraine, election interference and the treatment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, Putin’s jailed political rival.

A Russian court last week banned two organizations linked to the Kremlin critic, calling them “extremist” groups, which swiftly drew criticism from the U.S. and U.K.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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