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Prime Minister Suga To Decide Thursday On Lifting State Of Emergency; Rakuten Working To Speed Vaccination Process; Militants Float More Incendiary Balloons Into Israel; Biden Warns Of 'Devastating' Consequences If Navalny Dies; Former U.S. Advisor: Putin Displayed 'Classic' Whataboutism. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired June 17, 2021 - 00:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John Vause. Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM. As he leave Geneva, Joe Biden declares he did what he came to do, and that was to tell Vladimir Putin to his face the days of no consequences for the targeting the U.S. and its allies are over.

Japan may soon raise the limit on spectators allowed of the Tokyo Olympics up to 10,000 fans could be allowed into the sanitize bubble, but there's a catch.

And now, one of Japan's leading professional soccer teams is planning to dramatically increase what has been a sluggish and disappointing rate of vaccinations.

Joe Biden has just arrived back at the White House, after meeting for the first time as president with Russia's Vladimir Putin. The Geneva summit was seen as an early test for Biden in how he would manage relations with Russia. U.S. officials spent days before the summit downplaying expectations, warning there would be no dramatic diplomatic breakthrough, no significant agreements, no deliverables as they say.

Those lowered expectations were met with both leaders emerging after just a few hours to say, the meeting was constructed and positive. Adding, there were no threats or ultimatums.

Putin also described Biden as balanced, professional, and experienced. And said the meeting was aimed at achieving results. Those results are best described as low-hanging fruit, like returning the Russian and U.S. ambassadors to their diplomatic posts.

But on controversial issues, Putin seemed to get a little more defensive. CNN's Kaitlan Collins begins our coverage reporting from Geneva.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden summing up his first summit with President Putin.



COLLINS: The two leaders met behind closed doors for under three hours in Geneva, incited progress on their way out.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): The talks were quite constructive.

BIDEN: The tone of the entire meetings, I guess it was a total of four hours was, was, was, was, good, positive.

COLLINS: But it was clear that divisions on critical issues like cyberattacks and human rights remained.

BIDEN: The bottom line is, I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.

COLLINS: Putin summed up the summit first, praising Biden while denying any role in recent ransomware attacks and brushing off concerns about jailing his political opponents.

PUTIN: They've said that most of the cyberattacks in the world are carried out from the cyber realm of the United States.

COLLINS: Biden said, he pressed Putin on multiple fronts and would continue to do so.

BIDEN: I also told him that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have in our view. That's just part of the DNA of our country.

COLLINS: Biden expressing confidence that Putin would not continue to ratchet up tensions with the U.S.

BIDEN: The last thing he wants now is a Cold War.

COLLINS: The two agreed to send their respective ambassadors back to their countries and attempt to establish guardrails on cyberattacks.

BIDEN: I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off-limits to attack, period, by cyber or any other means.

COLLINS: At times, Biden rebuked his Russian counterpart after he equated jailing political opponents with arresting rioters who stormed the Capitol.

PUTIN: As for who is killing whom or throwing whom in jail, people came to the U.S. Congress with political demands. 400 people.

BIDEN: My response is kind of what I communicated, that I think that's a -- that's a ridiculous comparison.

COLLINS: Biden saying, they will know in three to six months if there can be a productive dialog, but growing visibly angry when asked if the summit would lead to real change from the aggressive Russian leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you so confident he'll change his behavior, Mr. President?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I'm not confident he'll change behavior. What the hell -- what do you do all the time?


BIDEN: When did I say I was confident?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said, in the next six month, you will be able to determine that.


BIDEN: I said -- I said -- what I said was -- let's get it straight. I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and they diminishes their standing in the world. I'm not confident of anything, I'm just stating the fact.

COLLINS: The president later apologizing for his response.

BIDEN: I owe my last question an apology. I shouldn't have -- I shouldn't have been such a wise guy with the last answer I gave.


COLLINS: And during that summit, President Biden said he did not make any threats toward President Putin, but he did say that yes, the U.S. is capable of carrying out cyberattacks on their own, powerful cyberattacks at that. And he said that is something the Russian leader is well aware of.


Kaitlan Collins, CNN, traveling with the president in Geneva.

VAUSE: Earlier, I spoke with Angela Stent, the director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies, she's also a former U.S. national intelligence officer on Russia, and author of Putin's World.

And was one of the small number of Russian experts who prepped President Biden before the Geneva summit. Here's how she graded Biden's performance at the meeting.


ANGELA STENT, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: He knew what he was getting into, he had, I think, a clear vision of what he wanted to do. And so, I would give him a pretty good grade. Maybe an A-minus.

He wanted to go there and establish guardrails. That is to say to try and lower the temperature and to try and come to enough of an agreement with President Putin so that there wouldn't be a constant escalation of crisis. At least, to find a mechanism of beginning into re-engage again.

And I think he did that quite well, and I think there were two main things that the Biden administration wanted. That's the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, our two ambassadors will now go back, having been out of country for more than three months. And the second was the re-engagement on strategic stability talks. That is talks to lessen or contain nuclear escalation.


VAUSE: So, Angela send -- gave Joe Biden A-minus to his performance at the summit, why not an A? Stay with us, we'll hear her explanation next hour here on CNN NEWSROOM.

We should know in the coming hours that a state of emergency for Tokyo will expire on Sunday as planned. If that state of emergency is lifted, it could mean the number of spectators at the Tokyo Olympics will double from 5,000 to 10,000.

CNN's Blake Essig, live in Tokyo with very latest on this, but there is a catch with where these spectators are allowed to come from.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, John, look, I mean, the decision on spectators is all predicated on a decision that will be made later today by the prime minister. Tokyo and several other prefectures have been living under a state of emergency since the end of April, while the current order is -- extended order, excuse me, is expected to expire on Sunday.

Japan's prime minister will announce later today whether he plans to remove, extend, or institute a quasi-state of emergency for the 10 prefectures where restrictions are already in place.

Now, under a quasi-state of emergency, order bars and restaurants are still asked to close by 8:00 p.m. but will be allowed to serve alcohol until 7:00 p.m., and the fines are then reduced for those that don't comply.

Also, for governors, they're allowed to target specific areas rather than have a blanket state of emergency order affect the entire prefecture.

Now, the decision by the prime minister will have an impact on the number of spectators allowed to attend the Olympics. Foreign spectators have already been banned, and at this point, no decision has been made regarding domestic fans.

But just yesterday, government officials reiterated that there will be a cap on spectators at big events.


SHIGERU OMI, JAPANESE GOVERNMENT'S TOP MEDICAL ADVISER: We have confirmed with the government about two things. The first is that allowing 10,000 spectators at venues would only apply to areas where quasi-curbs have been lifted. The second is that limit plans are not tied to the Olympics. We've agreed with the government on it.


ESSIG (on camera): Well, Japan's top COVID advisor went on to say that if any sort of state of emergency order is in place that the number of spectators allowed would be limited to 5,000 people or half the capacity of the venue, whichever figure is low -- is lower.

Now, either way, this is the clearest sign yet that local spectators will likely be allowed to attend Olympic events. Organizers say a decision is expected later this month. John.

VAUSE: Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there live in Tokyo.

Well, less than 10 percent of Japan's population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. The government is now aiming for a million doses per day by the end of this month.

CNN's Selina Wang has more now on the vaccine rollout and how it's beginning to pick up pace.

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pro soccer players' online consultations a speedy tech process. The CEO of e- commerce giant Rakuten thinks he has got the solution to speed up Japan's sluggish vaccine rollout.


HIROSHI MIKITANI, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, RAKUTEN: I think we are probably three to five x more efficient than other vaccination centers. Hopefully, you know that Kobe would become the role model of entire Japan.

WANG: Rakuten, which owns the Vissel Kobe soccer team is working with Kobe City to vaccinate up to 7,500 people a day at Noevir Stadium Kobe.

Five weeks from the games, less than six percent of Japan is fully vaccinated.

MIKITANI: I'm not really very supportive of hosting the global Olympic event. But if they are going to do it, then we need to really super accelerate the vaccination as fast as possible.


WANG: In its first week, this center vaccinated more than 10,000, but Mikitani is attempting something much bigger.

MIKITANI: I'm hoping that we can open other more vaccine center all over Japan. Let us do like maybe 500,000 shots per day.

Wang: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to accelerate Japan's rollout.

YOSHIHIDE SUGA, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): From October to November of this year, I hope to finish vaccinating all the people who need and want to be vaccinated. I want to realize this.

Vaccinations for the broader population start later this month at workplaces, including at big companies like Rakuten and SoftBank, and at universities. In this war room, Rakuten employees are brainstorming ideas to quicken the pace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at from the registration to actually getting vaccinated, we only take about four minutes. And we're trying to think how can we reduce three seconds, five seconds, 10 seconds.

WANG: A major bottleneck in Japan's vaccine rollout is a lack of medical staff to administer the doses. But here, staff from local universities are helping, and some pre-screenings are conducted online.

With Rakuten's help, Kobe aims to finish vaccinating those 65 and older by mid-July. That's ahead of the central government schedule and before the Olympics.

I'm really relieved to be vaccinated here, she tells me. I want to have a normal life again and be with people.

Last month, COVID-19 cases in Kobe were surging, and the city canceled its local marathon. Cases have been declining, but the city remains under a state of emergency.

KIZO HISAMOTO, MAYOR OF KOBE (through translator): We are seeing more of the new strains circulating in the city, so we cannot let our guard down and we have to encourage the citizens to continue taking all precautions.

WANG: Many medical experts continue to warn that the games pose a risk to the Japanese population. The majority will still be unvaccinated when the games begin.

I don't think the Olympics need to be held, he says. There will be so many coming into Japan that will probably go out and could give us infections.

In the meantime, Kobe City along with Rakuten is racing to protect its residents. Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


VAUSE: Hong Kong police have arrested the editor-in-chief and four other executives with the Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper. According to the paper, more than 100 officers swept through the Apple Daily offices on Thursday. Hong Kong's government says the arrests were made under a national security law passed last year.

The founder of the newspaper, Jimmy Lai, faces charges under the sweeping national security law and is serving a sentence for unauthorized assemblies in the 2019 protests.

China is taking a big leap forward to fulfill its ambition of building a space station. About three hours ago, China launched the first astronauts to its orbiting space station module. That's the core building block of a station that China would like to have up and running by December next year.

The three astronauts will spend three months in orbit, new record for China's space program. During that mission, they'll conduct two spacewalks, install new equipment at the module.

The militants in Gaza launched another round of arson balloons at Israel. When we come back, how the new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is responding.

Also, why activists say Afghans who help the U.S. in Afghanistan are in danger and need to be evacuated, and they need that now. That's next.



VAUSE: No response yet from the Israeli military to a second day of incendiary balloon attacks from Gaza. The latest volley started at least four more fires in southern Israel. CNN's Hadas Gold reports now from Jerusalem.

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER (voice-over): A fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas-led militants in the Gaza Strip rocked Tuesday. Militants in Gaza launching incendiary balloons over the border earlier in the day. Colorful party decorations often attached to explosive devices or just lit on fire.

Sparking at least 20 blazes in southern Israel, according to Israeli officials. The Israeli Air Force responding -- striking what it says xwere Hamas military complexes and meeting places. Palestinian media reporting material damages but no casualties.

Hamas calling the Israeli airstrikes a failed attempt to stop our people's solidarity and resistance in the holy city. Militants say they sent the balloons in reaction to a right-wing Israeli flag mark in Jerusalem on Tuesday, where demonstrators danced and sang in front of one of the main entrances for Muslim worshipers to the old city, chanting Jerusalem is ours. Some even saying death to Arabs.

The annual march which celebrates Israel gaining control of the western wall and east Jerusalem in the 1967 War rescheduled to Tuesday after it was canceled last month when Hamas launched rockets towards Jerusalem, helping to trigger the 11-day bloody conflict.

The airstrikes overnight, a harsher response to these incendiary balloons than in the past were tolerated. A test and a message from the newly installed government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who has previously advocated for greater military action in response to these incendiary balloons.

More balloons launched Wednesday, sparking at least four more fires according to Israeli officials, showing the possibility that an imminent and serious escalation cannot be ruled out. Hadas Gold, Cnn, Jerusalem.

VAUSE: Live now to Jerusalem and Elliott Gotkine is with us. So, Elliot, you know, we're hearing from the militants within Gaza that these balloon attacks are in response to the march through east Jerusalem by Israeli nationalists, carrying those flags on what was meant to be, you know, Jerusalem Day it was delayed.

But, and so, these attacks they -- it looks really, at the least, they will continue a reflection of the tension in the region. I guess how is that tension playing out on the coalition government there, which means -- which is made on some very diverse political viewpoints?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Yes, a bit of a baptism of fire, isn't it for this new government. It's barely what, two or three days old now, and it's already having to deal with its first crisis. So, no doubt Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition will be relishing seeing how this can cause some friction or disagreements among the diverse constituent parts of this coalition government.

But let's not forget that Naftali Bennett, the prime minister has in the past actually criticized Netanyahu for going too easy on the Gaza Strip in response to rockets or for not, you know, doing the job or for not finishing things off when there have been bouts of fighting.

So, I don't think it's particularly surprising that we've seen this response to these incendiary balloons, and indeed, although there were no strikes overnight from what the IDF told us this morning.

There has still not been a response to some more balloons that came into Israel yesterday, which could still be the case. So, I think that there's no surprise that this was the action taken by Naftali Bennett's government.

There's no doubt that it will perhaps cause some disagreements within the coalition, but given that this is still at a relatively low level, and this isn't really anything new, and it's not really a fresh round of fighting in the way that we saw happening last month, I think that they will be able to get over this and move on. But, of course, you know, things can always escalate here.

VAUSE: Yes, I think it's barely dry on that ceasefire agreement that was negotiated last month. But just explain when we talk about balloons, and often they're quite decorative, they look like party balloons.

These balloons, they can set fires, like sometimes they can also carry explosives as well. So, what is the threat posed to Israel by these balloons from Gaza?

GOTKINE: I don't think it's necessarily the threat, for example, to human life that is the issue. It's the feeling that, you know, we cannot allow -- Israel will feel that it cannot allow for these balloons or kites to be flown into Israel and causing damage.


GOTKINE: And since 2018, more than 3-1/2 thousand acres of nature reserves, fields, and farms have been burned or destroyed as a result of these incendiary balloons. Clearly, this isn't something that the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip that are suffering from this want to accept, and they would obviously in turn put pressure on the government to do something about this.

But as I say, at the same point, this Israeli government although it spans, you know, from left to right and includes for the first time a party representing Israel's Arab citizens. Although that is the case, there will still be the feeling that it cannot allow these attacks from the Hamas-control Gaza Strip to go unanswered.

And that said, I think from the IDF's perspective that the response was relatively measured, there aren't reports of casualties, for example, as a result to the airstrikes so far.

And I think that it's possible this kind of, you know, tit-for-tat will continue rumbling. But as I say, at the moment, it doesn't look like we're at the point of a fresh round of fighting like we saw last month. John.

VAUSE: Elliott, thank you. Elliott Gotkine in Jerusalem with the very latest and some analysis. Thank you.

The Biden administration says it's adding staff to accelerate the visa process for Afghans who've helped the U.S. during America's longest war. But refugee advocates worry it's still not quick enough. These Afghans are allegedly being hunted down by the Taliban, literally a matter of life and death. Here is Jake Tapper.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A family in mourning after their worst fears became reality. (INAUDIBLE) al ataj ali Khan (PH) murdered by the Taliban. His family says he was targeted for one simple reason, he worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan.

CNN has not been able to independently verify the attack. But documents confirm Khan worked with Americans in Afghanistan for nearly two decades. And this isn't an isolated incident.

Stars and Stripes, a news site affiliated with the U.S. military reports that one Afghan man who worked for the U.S. for 12 years was believed to have been killed by the Taliban while waiting for his visa for nearly a decade.

Those tragic deaths and others like them renewing attention on what many lawmakers, military leaders, and human rights activists have been stressing for some time now. The United States government, the Biden administration needs to rescue the Afghan men and women who risked everything to help the U.S. effort before it's too late.


KIM STAFFIERI, CO-FOUNDER, ASSOCIATION OF WARTIME ALLIES: We need to evacuate these people. TAPPER: Time is running out. Today, these Afghan allies wait in unrelenting fear. They say they're sitting ducks as the Taliban and other militant groups target them to send a message about the penalty for having helped Americans.

Some 18,000 have applied for a special visa known as an SIV to come to the United States, a program which the U.S. government created more than a decade ago, but layers of red tape and bureaucracy have slowed the process down to the point where many of the would-be recipients have been waiting for years.

Khan was one of those sitting ducks. He waited for years before the Taliban reportedly caught up with him.

STAFFIERI: I mean, they're all walking with a target on them right now. And the reports of the attacks are coming in daily. At this point, the murders are happening now.

TAPPER: Kim Staffieri is the co-founder and executive director of the Association of Wartime Allies, which has helped Afghan allies through the visa application process.

Her group is tracking more than 11,000 Afghans who worked for the U.S. all trying to get to America for their own safety. Staffieri says everything got worse after President Biden announced in April that U.S. forces would withdraw by September.

STAFFIERI: Since then, the entire dynamic has changed, the applicants are terrified. I wake up to a message that pleading for help. We're going to be slaughtered. We're afraid we're going to be killed.

TAPPER: Secretary of State Tony Blinken testified that while approving these visas is a priority, he doesn't think the situation will get worse.

ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I wouldn't necessarily equate the departure of our forces in July, august, or by early September with some kind of immediate deterioration in the -- in the situation.

TAPPER: But advocates say Blinken must not be seeing what they are seeing.

STAFFIERI: All the on-the-ground reports that we are getting are direct contrast to that. These people are in danger now.

TAPPER: A sentiment echoed on social media by these SIV applicants, who say, "The situation of Afghanistan is getting worse day by day." "The Taliban killed my brother, and I am sure they will kill me as well," and, "They will kill all."

One option pushed by advocates, evacuate these Afghans to safety even while their visas are still being processed. Some using the hashtag GetThemToGuam.

Guam's governor writing a letter to President Biden saying the U.S. territory is open to being a temporary safe haven for these Afghans.


TAPPER: A few weeks ago, administration officials told CNN that the Pentagon was looking at how to evacuate the thousands of Afghans at risk. With the head of U.S. Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie publicly announcing he could pull it off. All he needs is the green light.

GEN. KENNETH F. MCKENZIE JR., COMMANDER, UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND: From a Central Command perspective and the perspective of the U.S. military, if directed to do something like that, we could certainly do it.

TAPPER: Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark Milley saying the U.S. must protect these allies at all costs. According to Defense One, saying, "We recognize that a very important task is to ensure that we remain faithful to them, and that we do what's necessary to ensure their protection, and if necessary, get them out of the country."

But Blinken is not ready to commit.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, yes or no, is the administration planning an evacuation of those people?

BLINKEN: Evacuation is the wrong word.

TAPPER: And when I push the White House press secretary on if Biden would commit to getting these allies out of Afghanistan before the U.S. withdrawal, this was her answer.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You're asking me specifically about expediting the departure of individuals out of Afghanistan. I just don't have more information for you on that, but that doesn't change the fact that these are individuals we want to help.

TAPPER: Afghan allies are now left in limbo, hoping they do not meet the same fate many Vietnamese allies did after the 1975 evacuation of Saigon. An evacuation that a young Senator Joe Biden was against at the time. Saying, "I do not believe the United States has an obligation, moral or otherwise, to evacuate foreign nationals." And that the U.S. "has no obligation to evacuate one or 100,001, South Vietnamese."

And now, thousands of Afghan allies and their advocates are praying that Joe Biden has had a change of heart nearly 50 years later.

STAFFIERI: You campaigned on a return to decency. Everything is in your hands, President Biden, and we need you to do the right thing.

TAPPER: Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Still to come, President Joe Biden issues a warning to President Vladimir Putin about the fate of a Russian opposition leader.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say would happen if opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies?

BIDEN: I made it clear to him that I believe the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia.



VAUSE: On one side was the U.S. president warning Vladimir Putin of devastating consequences if Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in jail. On the other side, the Russian president who could not bring himself to even mention Navalny by name.

CNN's Clarissa Ward has more now on Navalny and the back and forth between Putin and Biden in Geneva.



CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A final kiss for his wife before Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is led away by Russian security forces and later sentenced a two and a half years in a penal colony.

His crime? Going to Germany for emergency medical treatment after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok last August. A Russian court ruled that he had violated the terms of his probation in a 2014 fraud case.

At Wednesday's summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin doubling down on the harsh treatment of the dissident, refusing as always to utter his name.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This person went abroad for treatment, and he didn't register with the authorities. He ignored the law. And he was then. He knew that he was then being investigated and came back to deliberately.

WARD: President Joe Biden also standing his ground, ignoring the Kremlin's warnings not to interfere in Russia's internal affairs.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I pointed out to him that that's why we're going to raise our concerns about cases like Alexei Navalny. I made it clear to President Putin that we'll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights, because that's what we are. That's who we are.

WARD: Certainly, Navalny was aware of the risks of going back to Russia. Last year, a CNN exclusive investigation with Bellingcat exposed the security services toxins team implicated in his poisoning. (on camera): (SPEAKING RUSSIAN)

Was it your team that poisoned Navalny, please? Do you have any comment?

(voice-over): Doctors said he was lucky to be alive. Still, he insisted he wanted to go home.

(on camera): So you've said that you want to go back to Russia?


WARD: You're aware of the risks of going back?

NAVALNY: Yes, but I'm a Russian politician, and even when I was not just in hospital, I was in intense therapy. And I said publicly, I will go back and I will go back because I'm a Russian politician. I belong to this country.

And definitely, which I -- I especially now when this actual crime is cracked open, revealed, I understand the whole operation. I would never give Putin such a gift.

WARD (voice-over): Even behind bars, Navalny continues to be a thorn in the Russian leader's side. A very public reminder of the Kremlin's intolerance for opposition.

Today, Putin deflected criticism by comparing Navalny to rioters, who ransacked the U.S. Capitol in January. Biden fired back.

BIDEN: My response is kind of what I communicated, that I think that's a -- that's a ridiculous comparison. It's one thing for, literally, criminals to break through cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer, and be held accountable, than it is for people objecting and marching on the Capitol and saying you are not allowing me to speak freely. You are not allowing me to do A, B, C or D, and so they're very different criteria.


WARD: President Biden went on to warn that, if Alexei Navalny were to die in custody, that the consequences would be, quote, "devastating." But not clear yet exactly what's he has in mind what that would mean, what the response would be if that were to happen.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Geneva.


VAUSE: When Vladimir Putin was pressed about human rights issues, he brought up Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. and the storming of the U.S. Capitol. A comparison President Biden called ridiculous. And when we come back, a deep dive into whataboutism.



VAUSE: At his news conference after the Geneva summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed relaxed and comfortable for about an hour, taking questions from reporters, including those with America news organizations like CNN, ABC News, and "The Wall Street Journal."

He was asked pointedly about human rights in Russia, cyber warfare and his soul. Putin dodged, weaved, and deflected and resorted to a lot of whataboutism. When asked why, he outlawed political -- opposition political parties. He hit back with, what about the poor treatment of those taking part in a political protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Here he is.


PUTIN (through translator): People rioted and went to the Congress in the U.S. with political demands, and many people were decried as criminals. They were threatened within imprisonment for 20 to 25 years. And these people were immediately arrested after those events, and one of the participants was just shot on the spot and unarmed, as well.


VAUSE: Little political demands like hang the vice president.

On jailing opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin talked about nationwide protests in the U.S. after the police killing of African- American George Floyd.


PUTIN (through translator): America quite recently had to deal with terrible events, after the murder of, the killing of the African- American and Black Lives Matter ensued.

I don't want to make any judgment about that, but what we saw, mass violations of the law and so on and so forth, we sympathize with the Americans. But we do not wish that this kind of thing would happen on our territory, and we will do our utmost to prevent it.


VAUSE: Whataboutism, that's explained by "Last Week Tonight's" John Oliver.


JOHN OLIVER, HOST, HBO'S "LAST WEEK TONIGHT": Now this technique of saying "what about" is actually an old Soviet propaganda tool. And the reason it is dangerous is because it implies that all actions, regardless of context, share a moral equivalency. And since nobody is perfect, all criticism is hypocritical, and everybody should do whatever they want. It is a depressingly effective tool. The problem with whataboutism is it doesn't actually solve a problem

or win an argument. The point is just to muddy the waters, which can make the other side mad.


VAUSE: Well, for more now on Putin's news conference and whataboutism, Robert English joins us from Northern Italy. He's director of Central European Studies at the University of Southern California.

Robert, thank you for taking the time. When it comes to effectively using whataboutism. I mean, it's not just an old Soviet technique. It goes all the way back to the days of the Nazis. You know, would you say who are better at it than Vladimir Putin?

ROBERT ENGLISH, DIRECTOR, CENTRAL EUROPEAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Maybe that's true, but in this case, the attempt to draw equivalence between political problems in the United States and Russia not only fell flat, but as your intro showed, it backfired. So he wasn't effective yesterday.

VAUSE: Why did it not work as well as it has in the past with Putin, do you think?

ENGLISH: Because the equivalence wasn't there. On some issues, there are genuine issues, U.S. misbehavior, here in Europe, right? So I'm following the morning coverage, and the German, the French, the Italian, and of course, British papers. And we often see mild versions of whataboutism. Right?

You might -- the Europeans recall the invasion of Iraq that's up on this instability in the Middle East, the catastrophe of policy in Libya, or even the Trump administration pulling out of the Iran agreement. Right?

These are things that exorcise the Europeans in our American behavior, but in this case, comparing the repression in Russia to the Capitol rioters' mistreatment fell very flat.


VAUSE: This all essentially relies on the idea that two wrongs make a right. Doing something bad cannot be excused by the existence of a similar bad thing.

So did Biden respond correctly here by simply dismissing it just in one instance of being ridiculous?

ENGLISH: I think he did. Again, the reactions in all western capitals show that to be the case. People are kind of fed up. There have been so many instances, the Navalny treatment, right? Poisoning of dissidents or defecting Russian agents abroad. And just the crackdown on free press, free elections in Russia, that people are sort of tired of this. It just falls flat.

And what impresses me is that, on the whole, this summit, although Biden stood up, right, we're talking about the contrast with Trump after all. That's what's working in the background here.

And in place of sort of chaotic and unprofessional, Biden was organized and professional, and that allowed them to make some real progress to begin working on issues of strategic stability, arms control, that are far more important than the public relations surrounding the press conference.

VAUSE: It sounds like you're seeing the biggest success in the Geneva summit was the fact that it wasn't the Helsinki summit?

ENGLISH: That's 50 percent, but the other 50 percent, I am cautiously optimistic. They're starting a dialog that's long overdue. And what we have to recognize is that technology, with hypersonic missiles and space-based defensive systems and so much else, is bringing us to the brink of a dangerous new round in the arms race.

And recall that ever since George Bush's presidency, we've seen one treaty on arms control after another fall to the point where we're on the verge of a really dangerous and ridiculously expensive arms race, in which neither side will ultimately gain an advantage.

So I'm very pleased that Biden made this the centerpiece, beginning a strategic dialog. And don't forget, he signaled in small ways going into the summit, that he wants to work seriously with Putin. Right? Dropping the issue of the Nord Stream Pipeline, and also cutting some nuclear expansion programs in the U.S., nuclear cruise missiles on all ships and submarines.

That signaled let's get serious about these bigger problems. While I continue, of course, to defend American interests and stand up for our principles, let's get back to work on the really dangerous issues.

VAUSE: Well, then judging by the way Putin handled the press afterwards and what he was saying, and the untruths, and the whataboutism, and all of the rest of it. Do you believe that Putin is serious about dealing with the Americans in a straight-up kind of way, much like Biden is trying to deal with Putin?

ENGLISH: I think he is. I think a lot of the whataboutism, the sparring over equivalence between the Capitol Hill insurrection, for example, and repression in Russia was for his domestic audience, right?

The news clips from that will show him in command and scoring strong points. But they have little to do with the business of arms control, of strategic stability, of finding solutions in Afghanistan or Iran that are the main agenda between the U.S. and Russia.

We are not going to change Putin's policies internally, but the west is united in criticizing him standing up, for its principles.

VAUSE: We're out of time. They're telling me to wrap it up. But it's -- I'm just going to jump in there and say thank you so much. We appreciate, you know, your thoughts and your insights, and the early morning start for us. Thank you very much, sir.

ENGLISH: Very good.

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. WORLD SPORT is next.