White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday dodged questions on whether President Joe Biden was projecting ''weakness'' by inviting Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to a summer summit in Europe without setting conditions.
Biden on Thursday called for a de-escalation in tensions with Russia after hitting Moscow with fresh sanctions for the alleged SolarWinds hack and Russian meddling in the 2020 presidential election and proposed a meeting with Putin this summer. The report came after Biden blinked on his initial decision to send warships to the Black Sea over Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Biden was ''clear that there would be consequences for the actions, whether it was the hacking of SolarWinds or other problematic behavior by Russian leadership,'' Psaki told a reporter who asked specifically why Biden would announce a summit intention without a commitment.
''And the president offered that … to send the message that we will have disagreement, we’re not going to hold back on that. But our objective is to have a predictable and stable relationship,'' she added.
The reporter pressed Psaki, saying if Putin had rejected the summit offer, ''wouldn’t that indicated some weakness on the part of the American administration here?''
''I think the president’s view is that Russia is on the outside of the global community in many respects at this point in time,'' Psaki replied.
''It’s the G7, not the G8 … We’ve put sanctions in place in order to send a clear message that there should be consequences for the actions. The Europeans have also done that. What the president is offering is a bridge back. And so certainly he believes it’s in their interest to take him up on that offer.''
Biden told reporters he wanted to meet with Putin in person ''to address a range of issues facing both of our countries. Our teams are discussing that possibility right now.
''And out of that summit — were it to occur and I believe it will — the United States and Russia could launch a strategic stability dialogue to pursue cooperation in arms control and security. We can address critical global challenges that require Russia and the United States to work together, including reining in nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, ending this pandemic globally and meeting the existential crisis of climate change.''
The Kremlin on Wednesday said a summit between Putin and Biden would be contingent on U.S. behavior after reportedly telling Washington to scrap a plan to impose new sanctions on Russia.
"Of course, further work on this proposal to meet in a European country will only be possible taking into account an analysis of the actual situation and further steps from our counterparts," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA news agency, according to Reuters.
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