Whatever President Biden had to say at his press conference after his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva yesterday, it wasn’t worth the price. The price, that is, of giving Putin a stage on which to disparage the United States with a variety of left-wing talking points.
Moreover, if Biden said to Putin what he said he said — the White House has posted the text of Biden’s comments here (video below) — I am quite sure he confirmed Putin’s view of him as a fool several times over. That can’t be good for the United States.
Reviewing the text of Biden’s remarks, I was surprised to find Biden paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence:
I told him that, unlike other countries, including Russia, we’re uniquely a product of an idea. You’ve heard me say this before, again and again, but I’m going to keep saying it. What’s that idea? We don’t derive our rights from the government; we possess them because we’re born — period. And we yield them to a government.
And so, at the forum, I pointed out to him that that’s why we’re going raise our concerns about cases like Aleksey 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. The idea is: “We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women [sic]…” We haven’t lived up to it completely, but we’ve always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.
This is a deformed and denatured version of the Declaration’s operative statement, long ago abandoned by Democrats as obsolete. From the perspective of “progressive” Democrats, this is unacceptably recrudescent. However, Biden doesn’t mean it. They won’t get too worked up about it.
We should probably get worked up about Biden’s diplomacy on our behalf:
Another area we spent a great deal of time on was cyber and cybersecurity. I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack — period — by cyber or any other means. I gave them a list, if I’m not mistaken — I don’t have it in front of me — 16 specific entities; 16 defined as critical infrastructure under U.S. policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.
Of course, the principle is one thing. It has to be backed up by practice. Responsible countries need to take action against criminals who conduct ransomware activities on their territory.
So we agreed to task experts in both our — both our countries to work on specific understandings about what’s off limits and to follow up on specific cases that originate in other countries — either of our countries.
Here is the list of 16 sectors. If Biden had any idea what he was talking about, he would have given a few examples. They are of the “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blow” variety. They are obvious.
Did Putin get a pass on previous ransomware and other such cyberattacks emanating from Russia? The only correct doctrine is to treat all such attacks as a form of terrorism for which the host government is responsible, as must be literally true in any event, and subject to massive retaliation.
It is interesting to see Biden’s remarks receive the “experts say” treatment from Reuters in its story on this part of the press conference:
Russian officials have repeatedly denied carrying out or tolerating cyberattacks, and Putin on Wednesday made no concessions on the issue….
Experts were skeptical that Biden’s proposal would be taken seriously by Putin.
“There’s no indication at all that he actually went along with it,” said Keir Giles, a Russia expert with the London-based Chatham House think tank.
Giles said that grappling with the cyber threat emerging from Russia would require “an outbreak of honesty” on the Kremlin’s side.
“There’s no indication – at least from Putin’s public comments so far – that that outbreak has begun,” Giles said.
Now that is almost funny.