President Biden wouldn’t say much about his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, though it was the topic of several questions posed by reporters at his news conference Monday after meetings with NATO leaders in Brussels.
The president’s meeting Wednesday is perhaps the most-anticipated aspect of his week-long foreign trip to the United Kingdom, Belgium and Switzerland.
“I’ll tell you that when it’s over,” Mr. Biden deflected, replying to a correspondent’s question about his expectations of the Russian president and concessions he hoped to get. He said he wouldn’t negotiate in the press.
In response to a question from CBS News chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes, Mr. Biden also sought to put to rest any concern that meeting with Putin so soon in his presidency could unduly raise his prominence. “Every world leader here that’s a member of NATO that spoke today … thanked me for meeting with Putin now,” the president said, putting the number of leaders who had done so at about 10 to 12. “They thought it was thoroughly appropriate that I do so,”
In his brief press conference, which was delayed for 2 hours and 40 minutes, the president said the NATO nations addressed the threats posed by Russia and affirmed the sovereignty of Ukraine.
“I’m not looking for conflict with Russia, but we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities,” the president said.
Mr. Biden explained his delay to the press conference by saying he had a chance to meet with several leaders and had calls with others. He characterized his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as positive and said he believes that the U.S. and Turkey can work together on some things. Reporters were supposed to be let into the room to see the two leaders before their meeting but were only allowed in for a moment following the meeting, and neither Mr. Biden nor Erdoğan made remarks or answered questions.
Mr. Biden said everyone at NATO understood that “America is back.”
“NATO stands together. That’s how we’ve met every other threat in the past,” the president said.
At NATO headquarters, Mr. Biden underscored the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the alliance’s charter, which states that any attack on one member is an attack on all members, and therefore must to be met with a collective response.
“I will make it clear that the United States’ commitment to our NATO alliance and Article 5 is rock solid,” Mr. Biden told American troops in England last week. “It’s a sacred obligation.”
In a communique issued after Monday’s session, the heads of the NATO countries said they “remain firmly committed to NATO’s founding Washington Treaty, including that an attack against one Ally shall be considered an attack against us all, as enshrined in Article 5.”
The lengthy message took aim at Russia, saying the country “continues to breach the values, principles, trust, and commitments outlined in agreed documents that underpin the NATO-Russia relationship.”
“Until Russia demonstrates compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities, there can be no return to ‘business as usual,'” the communique stated. “We will continue to respond to the deteriorating security environment by enhancing our deterrence and defence posture, including by a forward presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.”
The statement included language about updating Article 5 in relation to major cyberattacks, which have become a significant and growing concern after a number oftargeting the U.S. government and businesses worldwide. The leaders said decisions about whether to invoke Article 5 after a cyberattack “would be taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis.”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the update would make it possible for an alliance member to invoke Article 5 and seek technical or intelligence support from NATO partners in response to a cyberattack.
Mr. Biden’s itinerary in Europe, which started with thein England over the weekend, was planned so that he would meet with America’s closest allies before his much anticipated in Geneva.
CBS News correspondent Ed O’Keefe said Mr. Biden was hoping to build in Brussels on what he called a “productive” meeting with the other G-7 leaders, as he tries to restore relationships with NATO allies that became frayed under the previous U.S. administration.
The agenda for the NATO summit included everything from the security implications of, cyberattacks and disinformation, to terrorism, and the alliance’s role in the .
But China’s precipitous rise and Russia’s increasingly aggressive actions, especially, were expected to be at the forefront of the discussions, and Mr. Biden has already been talking tough.
Just days before he’s to come face to face with Putin, the president said of Russia’s leader, “There’s no guarantee you can change a person’s behavior or the behavior of his country. Autocrats have enormous power, and they don’t have to answer to a public.”
Mr. Biden agreed with Putin’s recent assessment that relations between the U.S. and Russia have reached their lowest point in years. But while Putin regularly blames that chasm on American policy and “Russia-phobia,” Mr. Biden clearly sees it as Moscow’s doing, and he said the ball was in Putin’s court.
“I think he’s right that it’s a low point,” Mr. Biden said on Sunday, “and it depends on how he responds to acting consistent with international norms, which, in many cases, he has not.”
The president kicked off the workweek by meeting on Monday with leaders of the Baltic states and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
After Mr. Biden’s meeting with Stoltenberg, the NATO chief tweeted a photo of the two of them walking together and thanked the president for “his rock solid commitment to our Alliance.”