President Biden on Sunday defended his decision not to hold a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their much-anticipated one-day summit Wednesday in Switzerland.
The two leaders plan separate press briefings after the meeting, despite multiple points of friction in the bilateral relationship including Ukraine, human rights and U.S. charges that the Kremlin has all but condoned cyberhacking and ransomware attacks on U.S. targets by Russian actors.
Russia “has its own dilemmas” dealing with such issues as its stagnant economy, the COVID-19 crisis and its relations not just with the U.S. but with the West more generally, Mr. Biden told reporters in a briefing at the close of the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in Cornwall, England.
Both he and Mr. Putin said in separate press remarks Sunday that there were still areas of cooperation between the two countries.
Mr. Biden appeared to confuse his countries, though, telling reporters at one point that one area of bilateral cooperation could be addressing the humanitarian crisis in “Libya.” The U.S. and Russia have explored opening aid flows for the refugee crisis not in Libya but in neighboring Syria, where Russia is a major military supporter of the government of President Bashar Assad.
Mr. Putin also seemed to be looking for way to lower the temperature for the Geneva meeting, telling Rossiya-1 TV Sunday the summit could be a way to re-establish more normal contacts between the two leaders.
The summit is “planned to restore our personal contacts and relations, establish a direct dialogue and create really functioning mechanisms of interaction in the areas of mutual interest,” Mr. Putin said.
Speaking Sunday on CNN, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it is unrealistic to expect on a single summit to resolve all of the issues dividing the U.S. and Russia.
The summit, Mr. Blinken said, is “a beginning of testing … whether Russia is interested in a more stable and predictable relationship, and finding areas to work together.”
“We’re not going to get the answer out of one meeting,” he added.