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Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan en Route Suffolk, England

Press Release:

Aboard Air Force One  •  En Route Suffolk, England  •  June 9  •  6:56 P.M. BST

    MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay. Hi, everyone. We are on our way, almost arriving on the President's first foreign trip. We have a very special guest for our gaggle today. Our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, will take some questions, and then once you're done with that, I'm happy to take some as well. But you may have mostly for him.

    Q:  Jake, do you want to talk a little bit about the President's plan for boosting the global vaccine supply?

    MR. SULLIVAN: I do not want to get ahead of the President, who will be speaking to this issue tomorrow. And we'll be able to talk about additional steps the United States is taking to help donate more doses to poor countries around the world and also to leverage what the United States is doing to help get the world's democracies to increase their commitment to supplying vaccines to the developing world to help end this pandemic once and for all. But that announcement that he will make, he will — I will let him make.

    And then the G7, we'll make a combined announcement on this issue, and it won't simply be about vaccines — though vaccines will be a part of it — but it will be a comprehensive plan to help end this pandemic as rapidly as possible.

    Q:  What is the incentive for doing this? Is this about countering China and Russia? The President has talked about their vaccine diplomacy. Why is he trying to rally Western democracies, in particular, on this issue?

    MR. SULLIVAN: I'd say three things about this:

    First, the President is focused on helping to vaccinate the world because believes it is the right thing to do; it's what Americans do in times of need. When we have the capacity, then we have the will, and we step up and we deliver. And he said in his joint session that we were the arsenal of democracy in World War Two, and we're going to be the arsenal of vaccines over the course of the next period to end this pandemic.

    Second, it's the smart thing to do, because if variants continue to proliferate and get worse, ultimately one could break through. And he wants to make sure we end the pandemic before that happens.

    And then, third, he does want to show — rallying the rest of the world's democracies — that democracies are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people everywhere. And that goes for COVID-19, it goes for climate change, it goes for economic recovery, and it goes for the basic human rights and human dignity of all people.

    Q:  Can you talk about the working groups that are being launched to reopen travel within the G7?

    MR. SULLIVAN: We've established two working groups of experts — public health experts: one with the United Kingdom and one with the European Union. The point of these working groups is to share data and set out both milestones and criteria to enable a reopening of travel between our two countries as swiftly as possible, consistent with public health guidance.

    Q:  Should we expect any announcement on that front, during the trip?

    MR. SULLIVAN: I don't think the working groups will have finished their work by the time the trip is through. So we're not currently anticipating any specific announcements because we're being guided by science; we're being guided by what the public health experts tell us is the right condition and the right timeframe for reopening.

    Q:  Do you expect that the EU's refusal of the vaccine patent waiver to be a point of contention between the President and the other leaders? Is the President going to push them to waive — patent waivers?

    MR. SULLIVAN: I don't anticipate contention on the issue of vaccines. I anticipate convergence, because we're all converging around the idea that we need to boost vaccine supply in a number of ways: sharing more of our own doses — and we'll have more to say on that; helping get more manufacturing capacity around the world — we'll have more to say on that; and, of course, doing what's necessary across the chain of custody from when the vaccine is produced to when it gets in someone's arms in the rural developing world, and we'll have more to say on that.

    So, I don't foresee any clash or contest between the U.S. and our democratic partners on this issue. I see a unity of effort and a unity of commitment. And I think the results are going to end up speaking for themselves.

    Q:  How prominent is the conversation with Putin going to be on Syria humanitarian aid passage and keeping that route to Idlib open?

    And, second, on that: With the decision to end the sanctions waiver for the American oil company that was operating there, that Russia very much against, was that sort of a fig leaf or playing out something for Putin to sort of smooth the talks on that?

    MR. SULLIVAN: Syria will be on the agenda, and our position on the humanitarian access issue is well understood. We believe there has to be cross-border humanitarian access to save lives. And so that certainly will be something that the two presidents discuss.

    I'm not going to get into the details on it at this point because we want to give space for those conversations to play out in the run-up to Geneva and then between the two presidents. And I've got nothing more for you today on the oil field issue in eastern Syria.

    Q:  Jake, can you talk about strategic stability being a key part of the discussion? How are you defining that? Is it in the traditional nuclear arms control definition? Is it the mix of arms control/cyber vulnerabilities for the (inaudible)? Is it something broader involving the way the Russians are acting on their borders? What's your concept?

    MR. SULLIVAN: We believe the starting point for strategic stability talks should be the very complex set of nuclear arms issues that face our two countries. We've extended New START for five years. But what comes after that, how do we deal with the fact that the INF Treaty is no more, how do we deal with our concerns about Russia's new nuclear systems, and —

    Q:  (Inaudible) deployed you mean, but that Putin keeps showing.

    MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) development.

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    Q:  Yeah.

    MR. SULLIVAN: And these are issues that we have raised publicly and we've raised privately with the Russians. That's the starting point. Whether additional elements get added to strategic stability talks in the realm of space or cyber or other areas, that's something to be determined as we go forward.

    Q:  Jake, there's been an uptick in ransomware attacks recently. Is that going to be a point of discussion when the President meets with President Putin?

    MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, 100 percent.

    Q:  What can you do about it? I mean, is retaliation on the table, off the table?

    MR. SULLIVAN: So, our basic view on this is that all ransomware attacks are crimes. They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and every responsible nation should take action against the criminals who are conducting them and should not harbor them in any way.

    Ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure are of an even higher order of magnitude of concern for us, whether that's about a pipeline or meat supply or a hospital system or other areas of critical infrastructure. The President will talk to President Putin about our concerns on this front.

    We do not judge that the Russian government has been behind these recent ransomware attacks, but we do judge that actors in Russia have. And we believe that Russia can take and must take steps to deal with it.

    And I'm not going to be in the business of telegraphing our punches publicly or issuing threats publicly; I'm just going to say that we believe Russia has a responsibility. And, of course, any country that doesn't act, then the United States will have to consider what its options are, following that.

    Q:  What do you think is causing the uptick? Why do you think now? Why do you think there's been an uptick in attacks now?

    MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, let's be clear that this is not strictly a U.S.-Russia issue. Ireland has faced the — a catastrophic attack on its healthcare system. The JBS attack started in a computer system; it came from Russia, hit first a computer system in Mexico, affected Australia and Canada, as well as the United States.

    So, this is a global problem and it's being driven by a variety of factors, including increasing technical capability, and also, unfortunately, including the fact that many elements of the private sector globally have not brought their cybersecurity standards up to snuff.

    And one of our messages has been — to the private sector in the United States and globally — that it is — it's very important to lock your house, to make sure that it is more difficult for these criminals to get inside and hold them hostage or disrupt their operations.

    Q:  Do you think the President will discuss the Nord Stream pipeline with the German chancellor and/or the Russian president? Will it come up? Do you expect them to raise it?

    MR. SULLIVAN: I expect Nord Stream 2 will come up in conversations with the Germans. Again, I don't want to negotiate publicly on this issue. They understand well our concerns. But we do want to talk to them about what the implications of this pipeline are for energy security in Europe and for Ukraine.

    Q:  Jake, what is the message that President Biden will deliver to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Brexit and the Northern Ireland — the Good Friday Agreement?

    MR. SULLIVAN: President Biden has been crystal clear about his rock-solid belief in the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation for peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland. That agreement must be protected, and any steps that imperil or undermine it will not be welcomed by the United States.

    Q:  Is Johnson taking steps to imperil it?

    MR. SULLIVAN: I'm not going to characterize that at this point. I'm only going to say that President Biden is going to make statements in principle on this front. He's not issuing threats or ultimatums; he's going to simply convey his deep-seated belief that we need to stand behind and protect this protocol.

    Q:  What else does he want to talk to Boris Johnson about?

    MR. SULLIVAN: Well, he'll be talking to Boris Johnson about COVID-19; about climate change, as the UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow later this year; about their joint commitment to developing an infrastructure financing mechanism for the developing world that is climate friendly, high standards, and transparent. He'll talk to him about Afghanistan and our collective desire to maintain a strong embassy security — or embassy presence in Afghanistan after the troop drawdown. And, of course, there's a whole global set of issues, from the Indo-Pacific to the Middle East, that the two leaders will cover.

    And then, finally — you'll see this when they meet tomorrow — there'll be a refresher of the Atlantic Charter, which is now 80 years old. So there will be an updated statement of principles between the U.S. and the UK as free societies and free peoples speaking out about what we believe in in this 21st century.

    Q:  Jake, the President has talked about personal relationships in driving foreign policy. He had this meeting 10 years ago with Vladimir Putin. What did he learn from that meeting, and what is he bringing from that meeting? And has he been reflecting on it at all in the preparation for this upcoming meeting?

    MR. SULLIVAN: Bottom line: He believes you need to be clear, direct, and straightforward in every aspect of the engagement with Vladimir Putin, and that's what he intends to do.

    Q:  Did he ever consider having a joint press conference with him?

    MR. SULLIVAN: I'm sorry?

    Q:  Did he — did the President ever consider having a joint press conference with Putin, or was it out of the question from the start?

    MR. SULLIVAN: I will defer to my press colleagues about the individual modalities of the press-related issues. But he does want to have an opportunity after that meeting to read it out and speak about his impressions and what he sees as the way forward.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.



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