Biden and Putin hold high-stakes Geneva summit

By Peter Wilkinson, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Nick Thompson, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0841 GMT (1641 HKT) June 17, 2021
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4:38 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden apologizes for lashing out at CNN's Kaitlan Collins after question on Putin's behavior

From CNN's Betsy Klein in Geneva

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins pressed US President Joe Biden on why he is confident Russian President Vladimir Putin will change his behavior following the leaders’ meeting in a sharp, confrontational exchange.

Biden turned around after Collins finished her question to respond. 

“I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior. Where the hell – what do you do all the time. When did I say I was confident?” he asked, walking back toward reporters.

He continued, “What I said was, 'let’s get it straight – I said, what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything. I’m just stating a fact.”

Collins noted that Putin denied involvement in cyberattacks, downplayed human rights abuses, and refused to say Alexey Navalny’s name during his press conference, and how he could be sure that anything would change with the Russian leader. 

Biden responded, “If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.”

He did not answer her question as he departed the stage. 

Later, before boarding Air Force One, President Joe Biden apologized to Collins for his answer at the press conference. 

“I owe my last questioner an apology. I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy with the last answer I gave,” he said.

Interviewed by CNN Wolf Blitzer after Biden apologized, Collins said she was "just doing my job" when asking Biden that question.

"That is completely unnecessary from the President. He did not have to apologize, though I do appreciate he did in front of the other reporters as he was about to get on Air Force One," Collins said. "When I was asking him that question, I was just doing my job, which is to question the President, regardless if they're a Democrat or a Republican, and asking the President a question does not mean it has a negative slant or a positive slant."

"It is simply a way to get into the President's mindset of how he is viewing something, something as major as a meeting with a world leader who has interfered in US elections, jailed his political opponents, dismissed human rights, as he did at a press conference here in Geneva just earlier today. And so I do appreciate the President's apology, but it is not necessary. Because, of course, it's just our job to ask the President questions, that's the business that we are in," Collins continued.

Watch the moment:

2:09 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden: Putin relationship not about trust, but about "self-interest and verification of self-interest"

From CNN's DJ Judd

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Pressed in Geneva if he trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden told reporters following a bilateral meeting that “this is not about trust.”

“This is about self-interest and verification of self-interest. That's what it's about,” Biden says. “... [With] almost anyone that I would work out an agreement with that affected the American people's interest, I don't say, ‘Well I trust you and no problem.’ Let's see what happens. You know, as that old expression goes, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating it.’ We're gonna know shortly,” Biden said.

Following his own meeting with Putin in 2018, former US President Donald Trump indicated willingness to take Putin’s word over his own intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Biden also declined to elaborate on earlier remarks that Putin was “a killer,” pointing to remarks from Putin earlier that he was satisfied with Biden’s explanation of the comments. 

“He’s satisfied. Why would I bring it up again?” Biden said.

2:06 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden pledges to follow through with discussions about detained Americans

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

US President Joe Biden said discussions about detained Americans in Russia came up during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he will "follow through" on those talks.

"I am not going to walk away on that," Biden said to reporters.

The parents of imprisoned former US Marine Trevor Reed and the family of Paul Whelan, an American citizen who was convicted of espionage by a Moscow court and sentenced to 16 years in prison, have both appealed to Biden to help release their loved ones.

2:17 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden: "I think there's a genuine prospect to significantly improve" US-Russia relations

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

US President Joe Biden struck a realistic, but optimistic tone when describing his summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin — and what happens next.

Biden said the upcoming months would serve as a "test" on whether their discussion today would prove to bring the nations closer to progress.

"What is going to happen next? We're going to be able to look back, look ahead, in three to six months and say, did the things we agreed to sit down and work out, did it work? Do we — are we closer to a major strategic stability talks and progress?" Biden said. 

"That's going to be the test. 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. 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 continued.

Biden noted that there were no "threats" during today's summit.

"It was very, as we say, which will shock you coming from me, somewhat colloquial, and we talked about basic, basic fundamental things," Biden said.

1:54 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden: The last thing Putin wants is a Cold War

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

US President Joe Biden said he doesn't think that his Russian counterpart is looking for a new Cold War.

"I pointed out to him we have significant cyber capability, and he knows it. He doesn't know exactly what it is, but it's significant. If, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond. He knows, in the cyber world. Number two, I think that the last thing he wants now is a Cold War," Biden said.

"I don't think he's looking for a Cold War with the United States. I don't think it's, as I said to him, I said, 'your generation and mine are about 10 years apart. This is not a Kumbaya moment as you used to say back in the '60s in the United States, like let's hug and love each other. But it's clearly not in anybody's interest, your country's or mine, for us to be in a situation where it's a new Cold War,'" he said.

The US President went on to say that he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin understands but he added that it doesn't mean Putin is "willing to lay down his arms and say come on." 

Biden said Putin is still concerned that the US is looking to "take him down."

"He still has those concerns, but I don't think they are the driving force as to the kind of relationship he's looking for with the United States," Biden said.

4:34 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden: All foreign policy is an "extension of personal relationships"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

US President Joe Biden summarized his approach to foreign policy after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I know we make foreign policy out to be this great, great skill, that somehow it's sort of like a secret code," Biden said after fielding questions from reporters on the two men's discussions about human rights and cybersecurity.

"All foreign policy is a logical extension of personal relationships. It's the way human nature functions. And understand, when you run a country that does not abide by international norms — and yet you need those international norms to be somehow managed so you can participate in the benefits that flow from that — it hurts you," Biden said.
4:34 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden says he and Putin agreed to task experts on cyberattacks

From CNN's Kevin Liptak in Geneva

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Wednesday that certain areas of "critical infrastructure" should be off-limits for cyberattacks, Biden said at a press conference afterward.

Biden said he outlined 16 specific entities that are defined as critical infrastructure, including energy and water, that both sides should agree are out of bounds for cyberwar.

"The principle is one thing, it has to be backed up by practice," Biden said. "Responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory.

Biden did not say how Putin responded beyond saying both sides agreed to task experts to "work on specific understandings on what’s off limits and to follow up on specific cases.

Biden said in response to a follow-up question that he told Putin the US has "significant cyber capability" and would respond to further cyberattacks. 

"He knows it. He doesn't know exactly what it is, but he knows it’s significant," Biden said. "If in fact they violate his basic norms, we will respond."

1:44 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden says the tone of his meeting with Putin was "positive"

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

US President Joe Biden called the tone of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin today in Geneva "positive."

"I must tell you, the tone of the entire meeting, I guess it was a total of four hours, it was good. Positive," he said in remarks at the start of a press conference following Putin's.

"There wasn't any strident action taken, where we disagreed, I disagreed, I stated what it was. Where he disagreed, he stated, but it was not done in a hyperbolic atmosphere. There's been too much of that going on," Biden said.

“Over this last week, I believe, I hope, the United States has shown the world that we are back standing with our allies, we rallied our fellow democracies to make concerted commitments to take on the biggest challenges our world faces, and now we’ve established a clear basis on how we intend to deal with Russia and the US-Russian relationship,” Biden continued.

"We have gotten a lot of business done on this trip," he added.

1:46 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden: Consequences of Navalny's death would be "devastating for Russia"

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

President Biden said he told Putin that if opposition leader Alexey Navalny dies the consequences "would be devastating for Russia."

He continued:

"What do you think happens when he's saying it's not about hurting Navalny, and all the stuff he says to rationalize the treatment of Navalny, and then he dies in prison? I pointed out to him that it matters a great deal when a country, in fact — and they asked me why I thought it was important to continue to have problems with the President of Syria — and I said because there's a violation of an international norm, and it's called the chemical weapons treaty. Can't be trusted. It's about trust. It's about their ability to influence other nations in a positive way."