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Biden Speaks After Key Meetings With NATO Leaders. Biden: "Incredibly Productive Day" at NATO; Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 14, 2021 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But it's still a real tragedy. We're approaching a sad milestone. Almost 600,000 lost lives because of COVID-19 in America. And my heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one.

I know that black hole that seems to consume you that fills up your chest when you lose someone that's close to you that you adored. That's why I continue to say to America, if you've not been vaccinated, get vaccinated. Get vaccinated as soon as possible. We have plenty of vaccination, plenty of sites.

We have more work to do to beat this virus. And now's not the time to let our guard down. So please, please get vaccinated as soon as possible. We've had enough pain. Enough pain.

Folks, I know it's after 9:30 Brussels time, 9:30 p.m., and I'm still at NATO. You're all excited about that, I know. But I've had a chance to meet with several leaders recently. And I've had calls with others. It's been an incredibly productive day here. I just finished meeting with President Erdogan of Turkey. We had a positive and productive meeting. Much of it one-on-one. We had detailed discussions about how to proceed on a number of -- a number of issues.

Our two countries have big agendas. Our teams are going to continue our discussions and I'm confident we'll make real progress with Turkey and the United States.

But now I want to thank Secretary-General Stoltenberg for leading a very successful NATO Summit today. I had the honor of leading off the discussion today, among the 30 nations, and I pointed out that we're facing a once in a century global health crisis, at the same time the democratic values that undergird our alliance are under increasing pressure, both internally and externally.

Russia and China are both seeking to drive a wedge in our transatlantic solidarity. We're seeing an increase in malicious cyber activity. But our alliance is a strong foundation on which we -- our collective security and shared prosperity can continue to be built. And I made a point to make clear that the U.S. commitment to Article V

of the NATO treaty is rock solid and unshakeable. It's a sacred commitment. NATO stands together. That's how we met every other threat in the past. It's our greatest strength as we meet our challenges of the future, and there are many. And everyone, everyone in that room today understood the shared appreciation, quite frankly, that America is back.

We talked about Russia's aggressive acts that pose a threat to NATO and our collective security. That's why I met with the Bucharest 9, the eastern flank allies in advance of the summit. And today also met with the leaders of the three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I shared with our allies that I'll convey to -- what I'll convey to President Putin. That I'm not looking for conflict with Russia, but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities.

And we will not fail to defend the transatlantic alliance or stand up for democratic values. As allies, we also affirmed our continued support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We agreed to keep consulting closely on nuclear deterrents, arms control and strategic stability.

And there was a strong consensus in the room among the leaders in that meeting on Afghanistan. Our troops are coming home. But we agree that our diplomatic, economic and humanitarian commitment to the Afghan people and our support for the Afghan national defense and security forces will endure.

[15:35:00]

And I welcomed our allies and partners to recognize that counterterrorism -- the counterterrorism efforts must continue to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for attacks on our countries, even as we take on terrorist networks in the Middle East and Africa.

And I'm deeply gratified that as an alliance, we adopted a far- reaching plan to make sure NATO can meet the challenges that we face today and in the future. Not yesterday.

The NATO 2030 agenda and that we agreed to fully resource that agenda. The last time NATO put together a strategic plan was back in 2010, when Russia was considered a partner and China wasn't even mentioned. We talked about the long-term systematic challenges that China's activities pose to our collective security today.

We agreed to do more to enhance the resilience of our critical infrastructures around the world, including trusted telecommunications providers, supply chains and energy networks.

We agreed to enhance our cooperation with our democratic partners in the Indo-Pacific to meet challenges that exist there. We also endorsed a new cyber defense policy. NATO's first in the past seven years to improve the collective ability to defend against counterthreats, from state and non-state actors, against our networks and our critical infrastructure.

And we adopted a climate security action plan, which several years ago people thought we never would do. For reducing emissions at NATO installations and adapting to the security risk of climate change while keeping a sharp, very sharp on our ability to deter and defend against threats.

And finally, we agreed that among the most important shared missions is renewing and strengthening the resilience of our democracies. I pointed out we have to prove to the world and to our own people that democracy can still prevail against the challenges of our time and deliver for the needs of our people. We have to root out corruption that siphons off our strength.

Guard against those who would stoke hatred and division for political gain as phony populism. Invest in strengthening the institutions that underpin and safeguard our cherished democratic values as well as protecting the free press and independent judiciaries.

All of those were on the agenda. That's how approved that democracy and that our alliance can still prevail against the challenges of our time and deliver for the needs and the needs of our people.

This is going to be looked at 25 years from now as whether or not we stepped up to the challenge, because there's a lot of autocracies that are counting on them being able to move more rapidly and successfully in an ever complicated world than democracies can.

We all concluded we're going to prove them wrong. And now I'm happy to take some questions. Cecilia Vega of ABC.

CECILIA VEGA, ABC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much, sir. Good evening. You mentioned your sit down with Vladimir Putin and Russian aggression that came up in your conversations today. I'd like to ask you two questions if I may on that front.

Is it your sense walking into this meeting that Americans back home shouldn't expect much in terms of an outcome? Could you provide some specifics on what a successful meeting would look like to you? Are there going to be specific concessions you want Putin to make? And I'll just give you my follow-up right now.

You've met Vladimir Putin before. What have you learned about him that informs how you approach this sit down with him and what's your mindset walking into a meeting with a former KGB agent who you've said has no soul?

BIDEN: I'll tell you all that when it's over. Look, I've been doing this a long time. The last thing anyone would do is negotiate in front of the world press as to how he's going to approach a critical meeting with another adversary and/or someone who could be an adversary. That's the last thing I'm going to do.

[15:40:00]

But I will tell you this. I'm going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses, and if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cyber security and some other activities, then we will respond. We will respond in kind.

There need not be -- we should decide where, it's in our mutual interest and the interest of the world to cooperate. And see if we can do that.

And the areas where we don't agree, make it clear what the red lines are. I had met with him. He's bright, he's tough, and I have found that he is, as they say, when I used to play ball, a worthy adversary. But the fact is that I will be happy to talk with you when it's over, not before, about what the discussion will entail. Nancy Cordes, CBS.

NANCY CORDES, CBS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. I also have two questions about Vladimir Putin. The first is have any of the world leaders you've met with this week expressed concern that by meeting with President Putin this early in your presidency, that it will look like you're rewarding him.

BIDEN: What's your second question?

CORDES: The second question is what it will mean for the U.S./Russia relationship if Alexei Navalny were to die or be killed in prison?

BIDEN: Every world leader here as a member of NATO that spoke today, and most of them mentioned it, thanked me for meeting with Putin now. Every single one that spoke. And I think there were probably about 10 or 12 that spoke to it, saying they were happy that I did that, that I was going to do that. And they thought it was thoroughly appropriate that I do, and I had discussions with them about -- in the open about what they thought was important from their perspective and what they thought was not important.

And so the interesting thing is, I know -- and I'm not being critical of the press. I really mean this. I give them my word. But generically you thought it was Biden meeting him too soon. I haven't found a world leader who doesn't think it's not -- it's just soon enough. Everyone that I've spoken to, privately and publicly -- it doesn't mean there aren't some out there, but it's not likely that a head of state is going to stand up in front of 29 other heads of state and say, boy, I'm glad you're doing this in effect.

So, there is a consensus. And they thanked me for being willing to talk with them about the meeting and what I was -- what I intended to do. So, I haven't found any reluctance. There may be someone, but not open today or in the meetings I privately had as well.

And Navalny's death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights. It would be a tragedy. It would do nothing but hurt his relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me. Jeff Zeleny, CNN.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Sir, good evening. Thank you. In a weekend interview, Vladimir Putin laughed at the suggestion that you had called him a killer. Is that still your belief, sir, that he is a killer?

And I'll continue the trend, if you don't mind, of asking a second question. Do you believe if he does agree to cooperate, then what kind of a challenge do you find yourself in? How would you ever trust him? And if Ronald Reagan said, trust but verify, what do you say to Vladimir Putin?

[15:45:00]

BIDEN: Answer the first question, I'm laughing, too. Well, look, I mean, he has made clear that -- the answer is, I believe he has in the past essentially acknowledged that he has -- there are certain things he would do or did do.

But look, when I was asked that question on air, I answered it honestly, but it's not much of a -- I don't think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting we're about to have. The second question was --

ZELENY: (INAUDIBLE).

BIDEN: I'd verify first and then trust. In other words, everything would have to be shown to be actually occurring. It's not about, you know, trusting. It's about agreeing. You know, when the -- when you write treaties with your adversaries, you don't say, I trust you. You say, this is what I expect. And if you violate the agreement you made, then the quote, the treaty's off. The agreement's off.

And I'm hoping that President Putin concludes that there is some interest in terms of his own interest in changing the perception that the world has of him in items of whether or not he will engage in behavior that's more consistent with what is considered to be appropriate behavior for head of state.

Ann Gearan, The Washington Post.

ANN GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. Here at this meeting and earlier at the G7, you've said several times that America is back at allies' side. But a lot of those allies are themselves pretty rattled by what happened on January 6th, an attempted overturning of your election. And they may still be alarmed by the continuing hold that Donald Trump has over the Republican Party and the rise of nationalist figures like him around the world.

What do you say to those allies? What have you been saying to them at these meetings about how the next president of the United States can keep any promises you make?

BIDEN: What I'm saying to them, is watch me. I mean, I'm not saying anything, quite frankly. I'm just going out -- people, as I've said before, don't doubt that I mean what I say and they believe that I keep my commitments when I say it.

I'm not making any promises to anyone that I don't believe are overwhelmingly likely to be kept. I think that we're at a moment where -- I mean let me put it this way. You may have had a different view, but I think an awful lot of people thought that my showing up at the G7 would not produce any kind of enthusiasm about American leadership and about where America was.

I would suggest that -- it didn't turn out that way. I would suggest that there is a -- the leaders I'm dealing with in NATO and the G7 are leaders who know our recent history. Know generically the character of the American people and know where the vast center of the public stands. Not Democrat/Republican, but who we are. We're a decent, honorable nation.

And I think that they have seen things happen, as we have, that shocked them and surprised them that could have happened, but I think they, like I do, believe the American people are not going to sustain that kind of behavior.

And so I -- you know, I don't want to get into the statistics because, you know that old phrase of the Disraeli's, there's three kinds of lies. Lies, damn lies and statistics.

But I think it's appropriate to say that the Republican Party is vastly diminished in numbers. The leadership of the Republican Party is fractured. And the Trump wing of the party is the bulk of the party, but it makes up a significant minority of the American people.

Now we'll see, we'll see. I believe that by us standing up and saying what we believe to be the case, not engaging in the overwhelming hyperbole that gets engaged in by so many today, that we -- I guess that old expression, that proof in the pudding is in the eating.

[15:50:00]

When we said -- when I said I was going to deal with beating the virus, I was going to focus on that and I was going to get millions of shots in people's arms, it wasn't me. I just knew the American people. I knew the kind of help I'd get from the Defense Department, from police departments, from the hospitals, from retired docs, from -- I just knew.

And look how rapidly we moved. Now we have a group of people who were everything from the political rejection of the notion of taking the vaccine to people who are simply afraid of a needle and everything in between. We have a way to go. But I never doubted that we would be able to generate the kind of support we got and get so many millions of people step up and get vaccinated.

So I think it is a shock and surprise that what's happened in terms of the consequence of President Trump's phony populism has happened. And it is disappointing that so many of my Republican colleagues in the Senate who I know, know better have been reluctant to take on, for example, an investigation because they are worried about being primaried.

But at the end of the day we have been through periods like this in American history before where there's been this reluctance to take a chance on your re-election because of the nature of your party's politics at the moment. I think this is passing -- and I don't mean easily passing. That's why it's so important that I succeed in my agenda. The agenda whether it's dealing with the vaccine, the economy, infrastructure. It's important we that demonstrate we can make progress and continue to make progress. And I think we're going to be able to do that.

So as I said, the proof will be in where it is, you know, six months from now, where we are. But I think you're going to see that there's -- that god willing we're going to be making progress and there's going to be a coalescing of a lot of Republicans, particularly younger Republicans who are coming up in the party.

And last question, Sebastian Smith of AFP.

SEBASTIAN SMITH, AFP WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. Ukraine wants a clear yes or no on getting into the NATO membership action plan. So what's your answer?

And if I may a second part of the same question. Well, now that Russia has invaded parts of Ukraine, does that effectively rule out Ukraine ever entering NATO given that being in NATO would mean the U.S. and NATO having to defend the Ukrainians against Russia. Thank you.

BIDEN: Second question is the answer is no.

The first question it depends on whether they meet the criteria. The fact is they still have to clean up corruption. The fact is they have to meet other criteria to get into the action plan.

And so it's, you know, school's out on that question. It remains to be seen. In the meantime, we will do all that we can to put Ukraine in the position to be able to continue to resist Russian physical aggression and it will not just depend on me whether or not we conclude that Ukraine can become part of NATO, it will depend on the alliance and how they vote.

But I know for one thing, there has to be -- they have to convince and it's not easy. I made a speech years ago to the Rada saying that Ukraine had an opportunity to do something that's never occurred in the history of Ukraine. Actually generate a democratically elected and not corrupt led by oligarchies in any of the region's nation.

And I pointed out to them when I made that speech that they will go down in history as the founding fathers of Ukraine if in fact they do that. They have more to do. But that does not justify the fact they have more to do. Russia taking aggressive action even in the Donbas or on the sea, or in any part of Ukraine.

And we're going to put Ukraine in a position to able to maintain their physical security. Thank you all so very much. Sorry you're here so late. Thank you very much.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: You've been listening to President Biden answering questions from reporters after meeting with allies abroad and before Biden meets with Vladimir Putin.

[15:55:00]

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper. President Biden called today's NATO incredibly productive and assured America's allies that the U.S. has NATO's back. Biden also said he's not looking for conflict with Russia but will stand up for democratic values calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a quote, worthy adversary.

Let's get right to CNN's Kaitlan Collins live in Brussels. Kaitlan, Biden said he would make clear where the red lines are for Putin.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did. But he also said, Pam, that he wasn't going to negotiate with the press and talk about what he expects the outcome of that summit with the Russian president to look like. He was essentially saying he's going into it and that he has communicated to NATO allies while here in Brussels what he intends the say to President Putin, I should note while they are in Geneva on Wednesday meeting.

And Pam, one interesting thing that the president did say is he said he has not gotten any push back from NATO allies on this meeting. We had heard that were some skepticism about whether not now is the right time for the two of them to meet. Of course we know that skepticism that even existed inside the halls of the West Wing over advisers questioning whether now is the time to go into this summit. But President Biden justified the reason going into this and talking about what I's going to look like when they meet.

BROWN: All right, Kaitlin Collins. Thanks so much. Stick around for a --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: -- to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses, and if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cyber security and some other activities then we will respond. We will respond in kind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINGS (on camera): Now of course, Pam, those comments about what Biden would do if President Biden does not listen to his warnings about cyber security, election interference, ransomware attacks that we've seen that the White House has said is being done by these criminal gangs that are based in Russia comes after Putin did the interview with NBC News where when he was asked about that in conducting the cyber warfare against the United States, he denied it. And said there has been no evidence not only of the ransomware attacks but also of election interference.

We know that's not true but that is what Putin is saying ahead of the summit already preparing his denials, essentially. So when Jeff Zeleny our colleague asked President Biden what his policy is going to be with President Putin, essentially asking about Reagan's trust but verify, he said his policy with Putin is going to be verify then trust his claims. Of course, his claims in the past previous U.S. presidents as President Biden knows well have not always been followed through on.

And one other thing we should note about that political prisoner Alexi Navalny who of course is sitting in jail in Russia right now, when asked in the NBC News interview about whether or not he make sure that he would not die in prison, Putin said he could not commit to that and essentially would not even say his name. Saying he didn't care what his name was.

Well President Biden said there that if he did die in prison, that it would be a sign that Vladimir Putin does not care at all about human rights. And he said his death would be a tragedy. So essentially laying down a marker ahead of that meeting even though we know that the White House has said that will be a topic. Russian has said they do not plan for it to be one.

BROWN: It was interesting because he was choosing his words so carefully what he said about Putin before this meeting. But on that he didn't hold back. Thanks so much, Kaitlin, stick around. We're going to have a larger discussion here.

We've got Nia-Malika Henderson, Gloria Borger and others here joining us. So Nia, let's talk about what we heard from Biden. He says he wants to look for areas where he and Putin can cooperate together. But he said he would also, quote, make it clear what the red lines are. Past presidents have tried this. How will Biden's approach be different? How will he be more effective from past presidents?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I mean if you think about the immediate past president, he certainly isn't in Putin's pocket in the way Trump was. He's certainly going to be tougher. He's going to believe what America says about Russia and not what Putin says about Russia's activities particularly when you think about the cyber war and cyber terrorism that's going on.

But this was such -- I was in the makeup room listening to this. It was so different. Right, the way he talks about NATO, and then a cooperation with NATO. The importance of democracy, the importance funding this alliance. Right? So different from what we heard from Donald Trump, who was so down on this Western alliance. So down on NATO really wanting them to pay up and you have Biden here saying that the U.S. has a sacred commitment to NATO.

BROWN: Yes, he kept saying America is back. And it was interesting that he said Gloria that there was a consensus among the allies that he spoke with today this meeting with Vladimir Putin and the timing of it. Which is notable because Biden wants to go into this meeting with Putin with the backing of his allies. He wants to go in in a strong position. And I think that that's telling that he --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and he also has said he that talked to them about what he was going to say to Putin.

END