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Biden Arrives in Geneva Ahead of Putin Summit Tomorrow; Experts Concerned Over Rapid Spread of Delta Coronavirus Variant. Aired 10:30- 11a ET

Aired June 15, 2021 - 10:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: He will be greeted shortly by the Swiss president, Guy Parmelin. he will go on to have a bilateral meeting with him today as well, before, of course, the highly-anticipated face-to-face summit with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, tomorrow.

This is a big meeting and a difficult time between these nations. Both Biden and Putin have said that the state of Russia/U.S. relations today is the worst in some time. That's quite an acknowledgement. They have a lot of differences, they do have some areas of agreement.

Let's bring back now Natasha Bertrand, who covers the White House for us, Matthew Chance, often spends his time in Russia.also joining us, CNN Senior Global Affairs Analyst Bianna Golodryga.

Bianna, I wonder if I could begin with you. This is Putin's fifth U.S. president that he has been in power for, not quite 13, as Queen Elizabeth, but his fifth. Does he look at President Biden with any trepidation, with any fear, concern, that this will be a different U.S. commander-in-chief than the one who preceded him?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think Putin's idea of what justifies as fear is different than how we would justify fear. He is very comfortable in this role now as president of Russia. As you said, this is his fifth U.S. president.

But keep in mind, just as President Biden said yesterday, that Vladimir Putin is formidable, he's bright, interestingly enough, that's the same word that Putin used to describe Donald Trump, he also has never run for re-election. He has never been in that position of being debated by somebody who is challenging him for the role of president of Russia. So it's not necessarily fair to say that these two are co-equals on the international stage.

Yes, Vladimir Putin is very worldly and, as we can see, you should never underestimate him, but they come from two very different backgrounds in terms of how they got to the position where they are right now. And keep in mind that this is happening just months before the parliamentary Duma elections in Russia. So I would expect perhaps some meeting of the minds here, but I would not expect to see many concessions from Vladimir Putin, because at home, obviously, he would like to show that America continues to be the boogeyman here and he, by no means, would be giving anything away that he thinks would diminish his role internationally.

SCIUTTO : It's a good point, Bianna, because, of course, Putin and his allies have repeatedly changed the Constitution, literally, to allow him to run for more and more terms, no end in sight for his leadership, at least under the current situation, political situation there in Russia.

Again, you're looking watching live pictures from Geneva, Switzerland, that, of course, Air Force One, the stairs are up. We're waiting any moment for President Biden to emerge through the door there, walk down the stairs. He'll be greeted by the Swiss president -- the president, should say, the Swiss Confederation, Guy Parmelin, and they will follow with a bilateral meeting.

They have their own issues to discuss beyond what happens tomorrow between Putin and Biden, among them, the issue of a global 15 percent corporate tax rate, no small thing in the world of business.

We have Natasha Bertrand with us as we wait for President Biden to emerge. It's interesting. We were talking earlier about the U.S. and Russian leaders establishing clear red lines on issues like cyber. Echoes the cold war, does it not, right, this idea that they have to set these red lines in part because they're concerned about genuine escalation, the danger of escalation. And it peaks to, as I mentioned, both Biden and Putin describing the relationship today, as the worst it's been in some time.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER : And further escalation, for example, along the Russia/Ukrainian border, further incursions into, you know, western countries, into Eastern European countries. These are all things that the Biden administration is trying to limit, let's just say, for lack of a better word. They are trying to make it so that Russia does not engage in more bad behavior on the international stage.

And that is why they are having this summit with Vladimir Putin. They want to bring him back into kind of the global stage. They don't want a reset because that would imply that they would forgive the past actions of the Russian president and of the Kremlin, but they do want to move forward. And one of those red lines, as Biden intimated yesterday, would be if Alexiei Navalny, the opposition leader, does die in prison. That is one thing that the president said would really indicate beyond anything that the Russian leader just does not care about human rights.

SCIUTTO : And, by the way, it's the U.S. intelligence assessment that the Russian leader directed an assassination attempt against Navalny, poisoning him, which is a tactic he has used before, that Russia has used before against other dissidents.

Matthew Chance also with us here again as we're watching a live picture of Air Force One there at Geneva airport waiting for President Biden to emerge. Evelyn Farkas, who had been a deputy assistant secretary for Russia, raised a great point in the last hour that this summit came to be because of a real dangerous inflection point between the U.S. and Russia relationship. [10:35:04]

Just a number of weeks ago, when the U.S. was genuinely concerned Russia was poised to invade Ukraine, they had tens of thousands of troops amassed on the border and the U.S. was genuinely concerned that they would kill Navalny, right, not allow him to have the most basic medical care in prison.

We've come back from the brink of those two things at least for now. I mean, how dangerous was it at that point, and how much safer, if that's the right word, are we now?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty dangerous. I was up there at the time, both at the actual border region where the conflict is taking place and where Ukrainian forces were sort being picked off by Russian snipers when I was there.

SCIUTTO: We saw that story.

CHANCE: Yes. And on the sea as well, with the small Ukrainian Navy confronting the sort of giant military exercises, as the Russians were calling them, out on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, it is a genuine threat, it's a continuing threat.

And here's the thing. You know, Biden says he wants a stable relationship with President Putin. What he means is, I want you to stop doing that stuff. Stop carrying out that maligned activity. But Putin is not going to do that. What Putin wants Biden to do is to accept that Russia has the right to interfere in the countries that are neighboring it, to annex bits of territory, to silence, to kill anybody that he wants.

You talked about Navalny there. Biden said, hey, it would have damaged Putin's -- to paraphrase him, it would have damaged Putin's reputation if he would have died. If he had died, he wouldn't have been the first critic of the Kremlin that had died, he wouldn't have been the second or the third or the fourth either.


CHANCE: They did try to poison him with nerve agent.

SCIUTTO: And they poisoned Alexander Litvinenko in London with radioactive polonium, right? And if you're a journalist in Russia, you want to stay away from windows and balconies, because we know stories there.

CHANCE: My point is I'm not sure that Putin is that concerned about international opinion about what happens inside Russia.

SCIUTTO: Again, live pictures there from Geneva airport, awaiting President Biden to emerge from Air Force One. He will be greeted by the president of the Swiss Confederation, Guy Parmelin.

Bianna Golodryga with us as well. Bianna, listening to, and you've covered Russia for some time, in addition to being born there yourself. Listening to Matthew there about Putin's intransigence on these issues, does that present a danger for Biden that he comes away from the summit with nothing?

GOLODRYGA: Look, in terms of what they could come away with, I think it's smart for President Biden to set the bar very low. Maybe they can get some agreement on humanitarian aid to Syria.

In terms of what happens domestically within Russia, I think Matthew is absolutely right, Putin has said that that is a red line. He does seem to be, and the Kremlin itself, appear to be acting in a way that we haven't seen over the past few years, especially since the arrival of Alexei Navalny.

And I should just note, as we have been talking about him, Putin has said that this is a nonstarter, not to be discussed during this meeting with President Biden. No doubt, President Biden will bring him up, but Navalny's wife just posted a photo on the eve of this meeting outside of Navalny's prison, where she and her daughter just met with him briefly, just another reminder of the difference between what democracies look like, even a fragile one, as we happen to see in the United States with this recent election, and what's transpiring in Russia right now, where there was even an attempt previously to have some sort of opposition, where protests were allowed. Now, that is completely changing. The veneer is off.

And Matthew is right, President Biden may say, if something happens to Navalny, that's for the world to condemn Putin on, I don't think Putin cares. Navalny was very close to death just a few weeks ago and it was his own doing, in starting to eat and end his hunger strike, as to why he's alive right now, not because Putin was so afraid of what the world's reaction would be.

SCIUTTO: We should note an importance difference though, that under President Trump, he was reluctant, refused to call out Putin for acts like this, for instance, attempting to poison Alexei Navalny, and, in fact, often excused Russian behavior. You remember the comparison saying that, well, we're killers too, in effect. Is the U.S. that different? Biden is not that kind of president. Biden, in the tradition -- well, what was the tradition -- there is President Biden, in fact, emerging from Air Force One, walking down the steps here, 24 hours before he will meet face-to-face with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. He is greeted today by the president of a U.S. ally, the Swiss Confederation, that is the president there, Guy Parmelin. They will have a bilateral meeting themselves in about an hour's time.


And there are issues to discuss between the U.S. and Switzerland, not quite on the scale of the U.S. and Russia, but the global corporate tax rates minimum of 15 percent agreed with G7 leaders is one very important topic of discussion for the two.

Again, this is President Biden's continuing -- really, President Biden's first trip overseas as commander-in-chief, consequential at each stop so far, meet with G7 alliance to establish his interest in reinvigorating it, you might say, or at least reestablishing American commitment to it, and then with NATO, reestablishing the commitment to NATO, a marked turn from Trump's America go it alone approach to world affairs. And, in fact, Biden has said, to confront a Russia or a China, the U.S. and its allies need to work together.

Just to continue a point I was making, and perhaps, Natasha, you have some thoughts on this as we watch President Biden arrive, it is a difference to have a U.S. president say, we will not stand for these kinds of human rights abuses in a way that Biden's predecessor deliberately did not.

BERTRAND: Absolutely. And this is a cornerstone of Joe Biden's foreign policy approach, is integrating human rights, international human rights issues into his foreign policy agenda at every point. And that's why it's been so important for him to call out the Russian leader on these human rights abuses, to condemn him, and even sanction the Russians for their treatment of Alexei Navalny as the administration did earlier this year.

But the Russian president is constantly drawing moral equivalencies, right? I mean, this is a president who, when asked about the treatment of the protesters on January 6th, is comparing the Biden administration's prosecution of those protesters with Putin's going after dissidents in his own country. I mean, these are things where Putin said, well, they're prosecuting their protesters and we're prosecuting ours. It is the same. It is obviously not the same.

But Putin loves to draw these kinds of moral equivalencies to show that the United States does not have the moral high ground.

SCIUTTO : You're seeing the president there about to enter what's known as the beast. That is the U.S. president's heavily, heavily armored limousine. It travels with the president, as does Air Force One. Again, the president joined there.

It looks like he's giving the Swiss president a ride in the beast on to their bilateral meeting, which will take place this afternoon.

Matthew Chance covers Russia, as we prepare for the main event here in Geneva to tomorrow, that, of course, the summit between Biden and Putin. How does Russia, how does Putin perceive the change in leadership in the U.S.? You know, to Natasha's point, when Putin makes these false equivalencies about the U.S., he's got Trump making many of the same points , right, still to this day, including about January 6th. So, how does Russia view the change in leadership? Do they view it? You remember, Biden said on the campaign trail, Putin does not want me to be president.

CHANCE : Yes. Look, I mean, I think the Kremlin, they still look back with some affection on the Trump administration and they still use the same kind of language that Trump continues to use about the relationship and about the problems in America.

But to Natasha's point, even though former President Trump found it hard to directly criticize Putin, the Trump administration and Congress was quite active in imposing sanctions on Russia, sanctions that were meant to stop Russia engaging in maligned activity around the world to get Russia to change its policy. You know, and I think to some extent, it didn't manage to do that.

And so when President Biden said there's going to be serious consequences if you continue with this malign activity, is he talking about more sanctions, because they already don't work.

SCIUTTO : Yes. And the point was made earlier that the sanctions that the U.S. has on Iran are a totally different category of economic sanctions than what it has on Russia. And those have been crushing for Iran's economy, things blocking access to U.S. dollar denominated financial markets, all those kind of things, which are on the menu, at least, of potential sanctions the U.S. could apply to Russia, but they haven't yet.

Bianna Golodryga still with us as we see the president's motorcade, the beast, his limousine there leaving Geneva airport for a bilateral he will hold with the man riding shotgun with him now, the Swiss president, Guy Parmelin, in advance of the summit tomorrow with the Russian president.

But, Bianna Golodryga, why have successive U.S. administrations, Democrat and Republican, Obama, Trump, and Biden so far, we'll see, not gone that far, right, not gone to those steps where they severely impact Russia's, for instance, access to financial markets, to truly squeeze Russian behavior on things like cyberattacks?


GOLODRYGA: Look, this is something that's been debated, especially over the past several years, even going back into the Obama administration, as to how far these sanctions should go and how targeted they should be. From a bigger perspective, you know, Russia is not so closely tied to the U.S. market, as many other countries would be. Russia just recently pulled out of reserves in the U.S. dollar, and Russia's economy has been sliding over the past few years, but not to the point, clearly, to where you would see Vladimir Putin reconsider some of his actions.

Domestically in Russia, they are seeing another wave of COVID spiking throughout Moscow. One of the reasons they didn't shut these cities down was because of concerns about the slowing economy and wanting to put more harm on Russians, in general. But in terms of targeting specific oligarchs and Putin, personally, that seems to be the main area right now where those who are advising the president are focused is to, if they are going to impose new sanctions, they should be tailored and they should be to where they impact Putin and not necessarily the Russian population.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And, by the way, those sanctions do hurt those oligarchs, right? It restricts their travel, it restricts some of its financial transactions, and President Putin is close with a lot of oligarchs. In fact, he's been accused of being an oligarch himself, based on the fortune that he has amassed.

Bianna Golodryga, Natasha Bertrand and Matthew Chance, thanks to all of you. We will continue our coverage, anticipation for tomorrow's crucial summit between President Putin and President Biden. President Biden has now arrived in Geneva where this will all take place tomorrow. We'll, of course, be covering it live then. There is much more ahead this hour. Please stay with us.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: This morning, the delta COVID variant is on the rise. New studies suggest though vaccines are effective against it. That is welcome news as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says g7 leaders have pledged in total a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for poorer countries.

Meantime, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, says investment in global vaccinations would be, in her words, the highest return on public investment in modern history. And she says vaccine policy is the most important economic policy.

She joins me now for an exclusive television interview. Good morning, Madam Director.

And let's begin with this. You call it a moral imperative, and now you have a billion doses of vaccine being committed from the richest western nations to poorer countries, but you don't think it's enough.



KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: Because to win the war against the pandemic, we need to do more. We have to make sure, first, that these vials that are now pledged, 1 billion of them, gets into arms in people of poor countries. In other words, we need the whole logistics and support to get the vaccinations done. And, two, we need simply more, more doses, higher level of production.

We put a price tag of what needs to be done at $50 billion. This dwarfs, Poppy, in comparison with the benefits the world is going to reap off from this investment. Faster recoveries, because of vaccinations everywhere mean $9 trillion of output for the world, of which rich countries would get 40 percent. And most importantly, they would collect as a result of a bigger economy of the world $1 trillion more in taxes, money to invest in education, in green infrastructure, in good jobs, right here in the advanced world.

HARLOW: So, this is the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization coming together and asking for $50 billion in commitment from the richest nations. I hear that. you just got off of meetings at the G7 with world leaders. Did you get any commitment, for example, from the Biden administration to this?

GEORGIEVA: We got very clear understanding and a goal to vaccinate the world by the end of next year, and I welcome that.

HARLOW: But what about a commitment to this number, right? GEORGIEVA: We also got -- since we announced this number, one third of the money necessary to execute this plan already made available in a short period of time. But we need more.

And I am very hopeful that people understanding it is in everybody's interests to get full speed against this virus that we will get it done.

You started talking about the delta variant. As long as we don't vaccinate the rest of the world, we are living in a fertile ground for more mutations. And that would ricochet back in countries where vaccinations are already up.

And you know what is very interesting, Poppy, people in rich countries today support their own governments to make this investment everywhere so they can be protected at home.

HARLOW: You talk about -- when I interviewed you last, about a year ago, you talked about trying to make this the great revival and instead of the great reversal. And you talk about it in terms of, Madam Director, of pro-poor development. As only the second woman ever to lead the IMF, can you talk about the economic pain, particularly of women around the world? We've seen the impact of COVID on women here in the U.S., but it is exacerbated in poor countries around the world, economically, because of COVID, is it not?

GEORGIEVA: It is even worse in developing countries, where women are the first to be let go, many of them are in contact-intensive sectors in the informal economy, and many of the girls that are out of school today are unlikely to return when COVID is over. So the future generation of women is negatively impacted.

Why it matters to bring women back, because women are a massive force for good. They're entrepreneurial, they are much more accountable for financial results and they also bring in decision-making much more care for others, much more open mind for consensus when decisions are made. The world needs its women.

HARLOW: I'll take that quote. That's a good one.

Let's end on this, because you have described most recently that the international corporate tax system is dark and distorted.


Those are your words. President Biden was able to secure, really, Janet Yellen, also an agreement with G7 world leaders and finance ministers on increasing the global corporate minimum tax to 15 percent. So there's a floor that's not zero. And I know you're smiling and hopeful for this.

My question is, that is a steep hill to climb back here at home in the United States. What happens to this if President Biden cannot get this through Republicans in the Senate?

GEORGIEVA: The policy environment is very fertile for moving on minimum corporate tax, globally. Why? Because deficits have gone up, debts have gone up everywhere, and governments have to figure out how to fill this hole that COVID created in their budgets.

Moving towards minimum corporate tax translates into higher revenues everywhere, and this is why it has been much easier this year to talk about it than it was in years before. We are strongly supporting corporate minimum corporate tax to stop the race to the bottom and limit tax avoidance, exactly because we see such a pressing need for the world to have more resources to invest in education, in health care, in green infrastructure and good jobs. And that is where the minimum corporate tax will definitely help.

I am optimistic. At the front, we have been lobbying for corporate minimum tax for many years. This time around, I see a pathway to an agreement, and bravo to the U.S.

HARLOW: We will see. Madam Director, Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, thank you, it's a pleasure.

GEORGIEVA: Thank you.

HARLOW: And thanks to all of you for joining us today. Jim, a big day for you tomorrow in Geneva, we can't wait.

SCIUTTO: That's right. We're going to see Putin meet Biden face-to- face the first time as commander-in-chief. He has now arrived here in Geneva. We're going to bring it all to you live.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan will start right after a short break.