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Biden and Putin agree: relations at low point

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“I think he’s right that it’s a low point….”

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was right to say that relations between the two former Cold War foes were at their lowest point in years - and suggested Russia might be weaker than it seemed.

“Russia has its own dilemmas, let us say. Dealing with its economy, dealing with COVID…. They have also bitten off some real problems they’re going to have trouble chewing on – for example, the rebuilding of Syria, of Libya.”

Biden’s comments came at the tail end of the G7 summit in England – and just days ahead of his Wednesday meeting with Putin in Geneva that promises to be a combative encounter given the two countries’ disputes over spying, hacking, election meddling, Ukraine, Belarus and human rights.

Asked why Putin had not changed despite years of Western sanctions, Biden quipped:

"He's Vladimir Putin. Autocrats have enormous power and they don't have to answer to a public and the fact is that it may very well be if I respond in kind, as I will, that it doesn't dissuade him - he wants to keep going.”

Biden was also asked why he and Putin will hold separate press conferences after their meeting rather than facing the media together.

“This is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or who can embarrass each other. He can say what he thinks the meeting was about, and I will say what I think the meeting was about.”

The President also stressed he was not looking for conflict with Russia, but rather to resolve actions by Putin the U.S. views as (quote) “inconsistent with international norms” and to work together on issues like Syria, and on climate change.

Biden is attending a two-day NATO summit in Brussels this week prior to his meeting with Putin.

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