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President Biden declined to condemn Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin or detail anticipated goals ahead of the summit between the two leaders in Geneva later this week.

“The last thing I want to do is negotiate in front of the world press as I approach a critical meeting with an adversary and/or someone who could be an adversary,” said Biden when asked to clarify the White House’s meeting agenda.

Biden, who for years depicted Putin as an aggressor and a dictator, used softer language when describing the Russian leader in Brussels on Monday evening.

“He’s bright, he’s tough, and I have found that he is — as they say when I used to play ball — a ‘worthy adversary.’”

Biden indicated that he’d be willing to share more after the meeting concluded. When asked if meeting with Putin early in his presidency inspired any trepidation among international allies, Biden said that all his conversations have been supportive.

“Every world leader here that’s a member of NATO … thanked me for meeting with Putin now. Every single one that spoke,” he said. “They thought it was thoroughly appropriate that I do.”

Joe Biden

President Biden at a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday. (Olivier Hoslet/Pool via AP)

Pressures on Biden to condemn Putin and the Russian government continued to mount after multiple rounds of cyberattacks linked to Russian nationals targeted critical parts of American infrastructure, including a major gasoline pipeline. After a round of cyberattacks in April, the Biden administration issued sanctions against more than a dozen Russian individuals and entities linked with election interference. In conjunction, Biden signed an executive order enabling the U.S. to sanction parts of Russia’s economy at its own discretion.

Still, Biden faced criticism at the time for neglecting to press Putin on the abuse and jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny during a phone call.

Asked by a reporter how the U.S. would respond to continued abuse of Navalny that could end the opposition leader’s life, Biden indicated that he would not give Russia a free pass.

“Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights,” he said. “It would be a tragedy and do nothing but hurt [Putin’s] relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me.”

When asked about the fact that Putin laughed when a reporter mentioned that Biden had called him a “killer,” Biden replied, “I’m laughing too.” He agreed with the assessment of Putin as a killer during a March interview, drawing a rebuke from the Kremlin.

“It’s not about trusting, it’s about agreeing,” Biden added on dealing with Putin. “When you write treaties with your adversaries, you don’t say ‘I trust you,’ you say ‘This is what I expect, and if you violate the agreement you made, then the treaty’s off, the agreement’s off.’”

Putin enjoyed a warm relationship with former President Donald Trump, who frequently complimented the Russian leader. Following a meeting in Helsinki in 2018, Trump said he believed Putin and not U.S. intelligence agencies when it came to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump defended the Helsinki summit in a statement last week and mocked his successor, saying, “Good luck to Biden in dealing with President Putin — don’t fall asleep during the meeting, and please give him my warmest regards!” During his press conference, Biden decried what he called Trump’s “phony populism.”

Biden answered questions from the traveling press during the NATO summit in Belgium as part of his first international trip since taking office. He began with a meeting of G-7 leaders in Cornwall, England, and is set to return to Washington on Wednesday following his meeting with Putin.

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source: news.google.com

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