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Biden, Putin Differ on Human Rights, Cybersecurity

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin meet for the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Biden, Putin Differ on Human Rights, Cybersecurity
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American President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland.

The leaders agreed to improve diplomatic relations between their two countries and to hold arms control talks. They differed widely on many other issues including human rights and cybersecurity.

The discussions lasted about three hours. When it was over, the two leaders spoke separately with international media.

President Putin told reporters that there was “no hostility” and called the meeting “constructive.” He described the U.S. president as “balanced” and “very experienced.”

President Biden also praised the meeting as “positive” when he spoke to reporters later. He said he told President Putin “we need some basic rules of the road” that all can honor.

"I did what I came to do," Biden said.

Switzerland, Geneva, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden attend a meeting at Villa La Grange
Switzerland, Geneva, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden attend a meeting at Villa La Grange

Areas of agreement

Both men agreed to return their ambassadors to their embassies in each country. The U.S. and Russia had withdrawn their top diplomats as tensions rose in recent months.

The two presidents agreed that Russia and the United States shared responsibility for nuclear stability. They said the two would hold talks on possible changes to their recently extended New START arms limitation treaty.

The leaders issued a joint statement saying that they made progress on “reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.”


Biden said they spent a “great deal of time” discussing cybersecurity also. The U.S. president said he gave Putin a list of 16 “critical infrastructure,” including energy and water systems, that are considered off limits to criminal activities.

U.S. intelligence groups report that recent cyberattacks on pipeline operations and the meat processing industry were launched from Russia.

Putin has said repeatedly his country had nothing to do with such attacks. He also said Russia had been the target of several cyberattacks launched from inside the U.S.

The two sides did agree to begin talks on cybersecurity issues.

Human rights

President Biden said he told Putin that "human rights is always going to be on the table." Biden said "I pointed out to him, that's why we are going to raise our concerns about cases, like Alexei Navalny. I made it clear to President Putin, and will continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights, because that's what we are. That's who we are.”

Biden said he would continue to follow up with Russia on the situation of Americans Trevor Reed and Paul Whalen, who are imprisoned in Russia. He also warned of severe results for Russia if jailed opposition leader Navalny dies.

Without mentioning Navalny’s name, Putin said, “This man knew that he was breaking the law of Russia. He has been twice convicted.” He said Navalny had ignored the law and had known what would happen if he returned to Russia from Germany. Navalny had been sent to a hospital there after he was poisoned. The opposition leader came close to death.

Putin then raised questions about unrest in the U.S. including the Black Lives Matter protests and the January 6 attack at the Capitol building.

What about the future

Biden said he had told Putin that he was "not against Russia", but "for the American people." He said he believes U.S.-Russia relations can improve without dishonoring American values.

As for Putin, he said it was "hard to say" if relations with the U.S. would improve.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

constructive - adj. helping to develop and improve something

stability - n. the quality and state of something that is steady and not easily moved

convicted - adj. proven guilty of a crime

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