Biden Takes Podium Three Hours Late for Brussels Press Conference
By Libby Emmons | The Post Millennial
President Biden took to the podium in Brussels on Monday, nearly three hours late for his press conference.
He spoke about the loss of life as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and intoned his own grief, as he often does, when speaking about the death of a loved one. He urged Americans, again, to get vaccinated, saying there’s plenty of medicine and plenty of sites where vaccinations can happen.
“It’s been an incredibly productive day here,” he said, noting that he met with Turkey’s President Erdogan. “I’m confident we’ll make real progress with Turkey and the United States.”
Biden said that the world is facing a health crisis, and that “Russia and China are both seeking to drive a wedge” in global allegiances. He said that the “US commitment to Article 5 is unshakable,” and that “NATO stands together.
“Everyone in that room today understood the shared appreciation that America is back,” he said.
Biden met with the Baltic states, and said we would “continue to defend the trans Atlantic alliance.” Biden noted that support for counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan would continue.
“I’m deeply gratified that as an alliance we adopted a far-reaching plan to make sure that NATO can meet the challenges we face today and in the future.” The last strategic plan was in 2010.
Challenges that will be addressed are cyber-defense, the threat of a growing China, nuclear threats, and a “climate security action plan.” Which will reduce emissions from NATO installations.
“We agreed that among the most important shared missions is renewing and strengthening the resilience of our shared democracies.” He said that we need to prove that “democracy can still prevail.” We need to “root out corruption” and “phony populism,” as well as “protecting the free press and an independent judiciary.”
“This is going to be looked at 25 years from now as to if we stepped up to the challenge,” he said, noting that the world is facing more autocracies across the world.”
Biden took questions from CNN, CBS, ABC, Washington Post, and AFP.
ABC asked about his sit down with Vladimir Putin, asking what Americans should expect from the meeting. “I’ll tell you all that when it’s over!” Biden said. “The last thing anyone would do is negotiate in front of the world press as to how he’s going to approach a meeting with an adversary or a would-be adversary,” he said.
He said that there will be areas where he will make clear to Putin where they can cooperate, but that the US “will respond in kind” as regards cyber attacks. He said he would “make it clear where the red lines are” in areas where the two nations disagree. Biden called Putin “a worthy adversary,” and said he would “be happy to talk about it when it’s over.”
Biden said world leaders “thanked” him for meeting with Putin now, and that it was “thoroughly appropriate” that he meet with Putin. He heard also from world leaders about what they thought was important in that meeting with the Russian leader.
“Everyone who I’ve spoken to, privately and publicly… thanked me for being willing to talk to them about the meeting and what I intended to do. I haven’t found any reluctance, maybe there’s someone,” he said.
Addressing Alexi Navalny’s medical condition in prison, he said that his death would show that Russia “has no intention of abiding by basic, fundamental human rights. It would be a tragedy.” He said this would discredit Putin in his eyes.
CNN asked Biden “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?” He asked.
Biden pretended to laugh. “To answer the first question? I’m laughing too.” He continued “The answer is I believe he essentially in the past has acknowledged that 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 I don’t think it matters in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.”
Biden had trouble remembering the second question, which was about Reagan’s old adage “trust but verify,” saying “I’d verify first and then trust,” he said. Biden said that treaties aren’t about trust but holding adversaries accountable.
“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 terms of whether or not he will engage in behavior that’s more consistent with what is considered to be appropriate behavior for a head of state.”
He took a question from the Washington Post about the concept of “America is back” in light of the Capitol riot, Donald Trump, and the rise of nationalist figures around the world. “What do you say to those allies?” She asked, “About how the next president of the united states can keep any promise you make?”
“What I’m saying 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,” he said.
“I think 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 may have thought that my showing up at the G7 would not produce any kind of enthusiasm about American leadership,” he said. “I would suggest that it didn’t turn out that way.
Biden said that the leaders he’s “dealing with” are “familiar with our recent history” as well as “the character of the American people, saying “we’re a decent honorable nation.”
“I think they like I do think the American people are not going to sustain that kind of behavior,” he said, and quoted Benjamin Disraeli.
As regards his domestic opposition, he said 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 an insignificant minority of the American people.”
He said that he believes that “by standing up” and saying “what we believe to be the case,” he said, noting that the “proof is in the pudding,” and pivoting to talking about COVID-19 and US vaccination efforts.
He said it “is a shock and surprise what’s happened… with President Trump’s phony populism,” saying that his GOP colleagues in the senate should know better. He spoke against the GOP refusal to take up a January 6 commission.
Biden spoke about the importance of his own agenda, that “we make progress and continue to make progress.” The proof, he said, “will be where we are six months from now, where we are.”
His final question was from AFP about Ukraine’s joining the NATO Membership Action Plan, and if Russia’s “invasion of Ukraine would rule out” Ukraine ever being a member of NATO, since that would mean the US had to defend Ukraine against Russia.
“The second question is the answer is no. The first question is it depends if they meet the criteria. The fact is they still have to clean up corruption, they still have to meet other criteria to get into the action plan.
“So it’s y’know, school’s out on that question, it remains to be seen. In the meantime, we will do all we can to put Ukraine in the position to continue to resist Russian physical aggression, and it will not just depend on me whether 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 they have to convince, and it’s not easy,” he said.
He quoted himself in a previous speech, saying that Ukraine has the chance 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 regions nation.”
“They have more to do,” he said, noting that Russia should not be taking aggressive action. “We’re going to put Ukraine in a position to be able to maintain their physical security.”