Hôtel du Parc des Eaux-Vives Geneva, Switzerland June 16 7:20 P.M. CEST
It's been a long day for you all. (Laughs.) I know it was easy getting into the — the pre-meeting. There was no problem getting through those doors, was it — was there?
Anyway, hello, everyone. Well, I've just finished the — the last meeting of this week's long trip, the U.S.-Russian Summit.
And I know there were a lot of hype around this meeting, but it's pretty straightforward to me — the meeting. One, there is no substitute, as those of you who have covered me for a while know, for a face-to-face dialogue between leaders. None. And President Putin and I had a — share a unique responsibility to manage the relationship between two powerful and proud countries — a relationship that has to be stable and predictable. And it should be able to — we should be able to cooperate where it's in our mutual interests.
And where we have differences, I wanted President Putin to understand why I say what I say and why I do what I do, and how we'll respond to specific kinds of actions that harm America's interests.
Now, I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else; it's for the American people: fighting COVID-19; rebuilding our economy; reestablishing our relationships around the world with our allies and friends; and protecting our people. That's my responsibility as President.
I also told him that no President of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view. That's just part of the DNA of our country.
So, human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him. It's not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights; it's about who we are. How could I be the President of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?
I told him that, unlike other countries, including Russia, we're uniquely a product of an idea. You've heard me say this before, again and again, but I'm going to keep saying it. What's that idea? We don't derive our rights from the government; we possess them because we're born — period. And we yield them to a government.
And so, at the forum, I pointed out to him that that's why we're going raise our concerns about cases like Aleksey Navalny. I made it clear to President Putin that we'll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights because that's what we are, that's who we are. The idea is: "We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women..." We haven't lived up to it completely, but we've always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.
And I raised the case of two wrongfully imprisoned American citizens: Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.
I also raised the ability of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to operate, and the importance of a free press and freedom of speech.
I made it clear that we will not tolerate attempts to violate our democratic sovereignty or destabilize our democratic elections, and we would respond.
The bottom line is, I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.
I also said there are areas where there's a mutual interest for us to cooperate, for our people — Russian and American people — but also for the benefit of the world and the security of the world. One of those areas is strategic stability.
You asked me many times what was I going to discuss with Putin. Before I came, I told you I only negotiate with the individual. And now I can tell you what I was intending to do all along, and that is to discuss and raise the issue of strategic stability and try to set up a mechanism whereby we dealt with it.
We discussed in detail the next steps our countries need to take on arms control measures — the steps we need to take to reduce the risk of unintended conflict.
And I'm pleased that he agreed today to launch a bilateral strategic stability dialogue — diplomatic speak for saying, get our military experts and our — our diplomats together to work on a mechanism that can lead to control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the scene now that reduce the times of response, that raise the prospects of accidental war. And we went into some detail of what those weapons systems were.
Another area we spent a great deal of time on was cyber and cybersecurity. I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack — period — by cyber or any other means. I gave them a list, if I'm not mistaken — I don't have it in front of me — 16 specific entities; 16 defined as critical infrastructure under U.S. policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.
Of course, the principle is one thing. It has to be backed up by practice. Responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory.
So we agreed to task experts in both our — both our countries to work on specific understandings about what's off limits and to follow up on specific cases that originate in other countries — either of our countries.
There is a long list of other issues we spent time on, from the urgent need to preserve and reopen the humanitarian corridors in Syria so that we can get food — just simple food and basic necessities to people who are starving to death; how to build it and how it is in the interest of both Russia and the United States to ensure that Iran — Iran — does not acquire nuclear weapons. We agreed to work together there because it's as much interest — Russia's interest as ours. And to how we can ensure the Arctic remains a region of cooperation rather than conflict.
I caught part of President's — Putin's press conference, and he talked about the need for us to be able to have some kind of modus operandi where we dealt with making sure the Arctic was, in fact, a free zone.
And to how we can each contribute to the shared effort of preventing a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan. It's very much in — in the interest of Russia not to have a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan.
There are also areas that are more challenging. I communicated the United States' unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
We agreed to pursue diplomacy related to the Minsk Agreement. And I shared our concerns about Belarus. He didn't disagree with what happened; he just has a different perspective of what to do about it.
But I know you have a lot of questions, so let me close with this: It was important to meet in person so there can be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate.
I did what I came to do: Number one, identify areas of practical work our two countries can do to advance our mutual interests and also benefit the world.
Two, communicate directly — directly — that the United States will respond to actions that impair our vital interests or those of our allies.
And three, to clearly lay out our country's priorities and our values so he heard it straight from me.
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Read the full transcript HERE.
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