At the press conference in Brussels, President Joe Biden takes a tough stance on Russia ahead of the meeting with Vladimir Putin. Delaney Tarr reports on the key takeaways.
Biden’s press conference at the NATO Summit in Brussels on Monday evening CEST time came nearly three hours late. Biden only took five questions during the conference.
President’s Q&A with the press corps followed a bilateral meeting between Biden and Turkish President Erdogan. Biden said that he remains “confident” progress will occur between the two countries after a detailed discussion. Erdogan said “We believe there is no problem that cannot be resolved in Turkey-US relations,” after the meeting. It was the pair’s first meeting since Biden’s election.
Stance on Meeting with Putin
The conference centered largely around Biden’s upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a highly anticipated meeting following the previous administration.
Former President Donald Trump had a very public relationship with Putin, going so far as to have a joint press conference with the Russian president.
Biden has refused to host a joint press conference and rebuffed questions asking what a successful meeting with President Putin would look like. He also declined to address specific concessions he wants from Putin.
“I’ll tell you all that when it’s over,” said Biden, instead of what he said would be negotiating in front of the world press.
He still asserts there’s room for cooperation between the two, but uncooperation would be met in kind. “If he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past… then we [NATO] will respond,” said Biden.
A CNN reporter called back to a weekend interview with Putin, who laughed at the suggestion that Biden had called him a killer. Biden responded with the laughter of his own.
“I believe he’s acknowledged certain things that he did do or would do,” said Biden. He went on to call Putin a “bright”, “tough” and worthy adversary.
Ahead of the meeting, Biden divulged that all other world leaders he’s spoken to have shown appreciation for Biden’s meeting with Putin, even among critics that the meeting could seem like a “reward” for Russia.
“I haven’t meant a leader who doesn’t think it’s just soon enough,” Biden said.
Ukraine continues efforts to join the NATO alliance
Biden also discussed Ukraine’s effort to join the NATO military alliance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from Biden on giving Ukraine a path towards the alliance.
Biden said “it depends” on whether they meet standard criteria. He said Ukraine has more progress to make, like “cleaning up corruption”.
Biden said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine doesn’t disqualify their acceptance, but stressed the importance of putting Ukraine in a position to resist Russia.
Biden says “America is Back”
The president then pivoted back to the United States, specifically the phrase that became popular during the G7 summit: “America is Back”.
The sentiment springs from the past US administration, which had a tumultuous relationship with NATO. Former President Trump at one point threatened to pull out of the alliance if other nations didn’t increase their defense spending.
Amid concerns around the January 6th insurrection and the rise of nationalism, Biden tells other leaders a simple command: “just watch me”. He said people believe that he keeps his commitments.
Biden believes his presence at the G7 summit produced enthusiasm about American leadership, and that leaders “know the character of the American people”.
“We’re a strong and honorable nation,” concluded Biden.