James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. June 7 12:42 P.M. EDT
Hi, everyone. Full room. I hope everyone is cozy. So, today, we are fortunate to have a very special guest, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, here to join us and give a preview of the President's trip. And then, of course, we'll do a full briefing after that.
With that, I'll turn it over to Jake.
Thank you, Jen. And thanks, everybody. So, as you all know, this week President Biden will head off to Europe on the first foreign trip of his presidency — certainly not his first foreign trip, but the first one as President of the United States. And the trip, at its core, will advance the fundamental thrust of Joe Biden's foreign policy: to rally the world's democracies to tackle the great challenges of our time.
We believe that President Biden goes on this trip from a position of strength: dramatic progress against the pandemic at home; strong, projected growth that will help power the global economic recovery as well; renewed American power and purpose; and a rock-solid foundation of alliances that will serve as force multipliers for our global agenda.
At the G7, he will join with his fellow leaders to lay out a plan to end the COVID-19 pandemic with further specific commitments towards that end. He will also join his fellow leaders to announce a new initiative to provide financing for physical, digital, and health infrastructure in the developing world — a high-standard, climate-friendly, transparent, and rules-based alternative to what China is offering.
He and the other leaders will endorse a global minimum tax of at least 15 percent, as you saw coming out of the G7 Finance Ministers Meeting a few days ago. And the G7 leaders will make a number of significant commitments on climate, on labor standards, on anti-corruption, and on ransomware.
At NATO, President Biden will address enduring security challenges that have been at the core of the Alliance for a long time, including Russia and coordinating the remaining period of the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan. But they will also focus on emerging security challenges to the Alliance, critically including cyber and the challenge posed by China.
President Biden will also reinforce the importance of burden sharing — not just the 2 percent commitment that Allies made back in 2014 at the Wales Summit, but the need for Allies to give not just cash, but contributions to exercises and to operations that NATO is undertaking, and to have the kinds of capabilities that make sure that NATO is a full-spectrum alliance with Allies across the board providing the kind of high-end capabilities NATO requires.
At the U.S.-EU summit, the President and European Union leaders will focus on aligning our approaches to trade and technology so that democracies and not anyone else — not China or other autocracies — are writing the rules for trade and technology for the 21st century.
President Biden will also have a series of bilateral engagements, including a U.S.-UK summit with Prime Minister Johnson, where the two leaders will reaffirm the Special Relationship and update and upgrade it for the modern era. And we will have further announcements about additional bilateral engagements that he will have both in Cornwall and in Brussels in the days ahead.
After his time at the G7, at NATO, and at the U.S.-EU summit, President Biden will go to Geneva to meet with President Putin. He will do so, of course, after having had nearly a week of intensive consultations with allies and democratic partners from both Europe and the Indo-Pacific. So he will go into this meeting with the wind at his back.
Now, we have made clear repeatedly, and I will reinforce again today, that we do not regard a meeting with the Russian president as a reward. We regard it as a vital part of defending America's interests and America's values. Joe Biden is not meeting with Vladimir Putin despite our countries' differences; he's meeting with him because of our countries' differences. There is simply a lot we have to work through.
We believe that President Biden is the most effective, direct communicator of American values and priorities. And we believe that hearing directly from President Putin is the most effective way to understand what Russia intends and plans.
There is never any substitute for leader-to-leader engagement, particularly for complex relationships, but with Putin this is exponentially the case. He has a highly personalized style of decision making and so it is important for President Biden to be able to sit down with him face to face, to be clear about where we are, to understand where he is, to try to manage our differences, and to identify those areas where we can work in America's interests to make progress.
When President Biden returns to Washington next week, we believe that we will be in a materially stronger position to manage the major threats and challenges this country faces: COVID, climate, China, cyber, Russia, and shaping the rules of trade and technology for the future.
So, with that, I'd be happy to take any questions that you have.
Thanks, Jake. Is this the right time to be having a one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin so early in President Biden's presidency, before he's met one-on-one with so many other world leaders, and at a time when there isn't a specific deliverable that the White House is looking to achieve from the one-on-one meeting?
So, first, we don't think in terms of U.S.-Russia summits as being about deliverables. Because if you're going to wait for really significant deliverables, you could be waiting a long time, conceivably. So what we need to think about this summit as doing is fundamentally giving us an opportunity to communicate from our president to their president what American intentions and capabilities are and to hearing the same from their side. That has value in and of itself.
Secondly, in terms of the timing, it is hard from our perspective to find a better context for a meeting with the Russian president than after time spent with the world's leading market economies — the G7 — plus India, South Korea, Australia, and South Africa; after a meeting with all of his fellow leaders at NATO; after a meeting with the presidents of the European Union; and then, and only then, going into this session to be able to talk through the complex set of issues in the U.S.-Russia relationship. That, from our perspective, is the right context within which to engage Russia.
And as far as whether it comes too early in his presidency, if you think about what we've dealt with from the outset on Russia, it's been a busy time: We've extended the New START agreement. We've imposed costs for election interference and for SolarWinds. We've dealt with a Russian buildup on the Ukraine border. And, of course, we are contending with a range of issues in the cyber and ransomware domain. So, we feel that it is an effective and appropriate context and time period for us to have this summit.
And then, just as a follow-up to that: The Ukrainian President did an interview today and implored President Biden to meet with him first, before Mr. Biden sits down with Vladimir Putin. Is that something that you're considering? If not, why not?
Well, actually, I have come into this briefing room from the Oval Office where President Biden was on the phone with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. This is a call that they had been planning to make in advance of President Biden going to Europe and meeting with President Putin. They had the opportunity to talk at some length about all of the issues in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. And President Biden was able to tell President Zelenskyy that he will stand up firmly for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and its aspirations, as we go forward. And he also told President Zelenskyy that he looks forward to welcoming him to the White House, here in Washington, this summer after he returns from Europe.
Hi, Jake. Thank you. We know that Afghanistan is going to be discussed with our NATO Allies. There's been a lot of concern about replacing some of those U.S. assets, such as the drones, to be able to fight against the Taliban. Can you bring us up to speed on where are the negotiations with Pakistan? And would the United States like to have a drone base in Pakistan?
So I'm not going to get into the details of our negotiations with Pakistan. I will only say this: We have had constructive discussions in the military, intelligence, and diplomatic channels with Pakistan about the future of America's capabilities to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a base from which al Qaeda or ISIS or any other terrorist group can attack the United States.
But in terms of the specifics of what that will look like, that will have to remain in those private channels as we work through them.
What I will say is that we are talking to a wide range of countries about how we build effective, over-the-horizon capacity, both from an intelligence and from a defense perspective, to be able to suppress the terrorism threat in Afghanistan on a going-forward basis.
Jake, two questions — one with Putin and one here back at home. With Putin, the President is going into this meeting where there's great tension between both leaders. And let's talk about the trust factor: How can you trust anything Vladimir Putin says in this sit-down when the President comes back? You say you're going to learn what he's thinking and what he wants to moving forward. How can you trust that, as Vladimir Putin has already smeared the President's name? How can you do that? How can you trust?
Taking the measure of another president is not about trusting them. And the relationship between the U.S. and Russia is not about a relationship of trust. It's about a relationship of verification. It's about a relationship of clarifying what our expectations are and laying out that if certain kinds of harmful activities continue to occur, there will be responses from the United States.
What are those responses?
And our — well, we will lay those out for President Putin in this meeting, and he will understand fully where the United States stands and what we intend to do.
But one thing I will say, April, is we believe fundamentally that our capacity to ensure that harmful and disruptive activities against the United States do not continue unabated is to be able to communicate clearly, directly — not by negotiating in public, but by explicating our position and our capabilities in private. And that's what President Putin intends to do.
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