President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday increased the stakes for their Wednesday summit, with the U.S. raising expectations of blunt talk on a range of issues and Moscow moving to crush domestic opposition over Western objections.
In his first remarks on foreign soil since taking office, Biden told cheering U.S. Air Force personnel at Royal Air Force Mildenhall his plan was to “meet with Mr. Putin to let him know what I want him to know.” The crowd laughed and clapped.
“I'm going to communicate that there are consequences for violating the sovereignty of democracies in the United States and Europe and elsewhere,” the president promised. “The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities.”
Biden will meet face-to-face with dozens of mostly friendly world leaders — from the Group of Seven rich democracies, the European and NATO during stops in the United Kingdom and Brussels — before Wednesday’s showdown with Putin in Geneva.
“We're at an inflection point in world history — the moment where it falls to us to prove that democracies will not just endure, but they will excel,” the president said. “We have to discredit those who believe that the age of democracy is over.”
Aboard Air Force One, Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters the president would “100 percent” discuss a wave of ransomware attacks on American targets, including several in recent days, when the two leaders sit down.
“I'm not going to be in the business of telegraphing our punches publicly or issuing threats publicly; I'm just going to say that we believe Russia has a responsibility,” Sullivan said.
“And, of course, any country that doesn't act, then the United States will have to consider what its options are, following that.”
While the United States does not directly blame Russia’s government for those attacks, it has imposed sanctions on Moscow for the 2020 SolarWinds hack that compromised at least 100 companies and nine federal agencies.
“But that doesn't mean that issue is behind us,” Sullivan said. “The issue of state-sponsored cyberattacks of that scope and scale remains a matter of grave concern to the United States. It will be a topic of conversation.”
Other topics, U.S. officials have said, will include the humanitarian disaster that is the Syrian civil war, Russian belligerence toward Ukraine, Moscow's interference in U.S. elections, and seemingly stalled efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, to which Moscow was a party.
Sullivan said Biden “believes you need to be clear, direct, and straightforward in every aspect of the engagement with Vladimir Putin, and that's what he intends to do.”
And White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on the flight: “This is not about friendship. It’s not about trust. It’s about what’s in the interest of the United States … that is moving toward a more stable and predictable relationship.”
Putin, meanwhile, sharply ramped up the pressure on his already battered domestic political opposition after months of arrests of protesters and their leaders and new measures targeting media outlets and social media firms.
At the New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer and Anton Troianovski reported:
“A Russian court on Wednesday designated Aleksei A. Navalny’s political movement as an extremist network, a remarkable move that sent a message to President Biden ahead of his meeting next week with President Vladimir V. Putin: Russian domestic affairs are not up for discussion.
The court decision — taken almost certainly with Mr. Putin’s blessing — is bound to push the movement further underground after several months in which the Kremlin’s yearslong effort to suppress dissent had entered a more aggressive phase. Under the law, Mr. Navalny’s organizers, donors, or even social-media supporters could now be prosecuted and face prison time.”
That came after Russia last week rebuffed the latest U.S. criticism of its human rights record with a cryptic, and somewhat ominous, message.
"The Americans must assume that a number of signals from Moscow ... will be uncomfortable for them, including in the coming days," Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.
Public talk of “punches” and “threats” aside, Biden has always taken a dark view of Putin.
That hasn’t stopped him from agreeing with the Russian leader earlier this year to extend the New START arms control treaty. And his administration waived sanctions tied to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany, which if completed would make Europe more dependent on Russian energy. U.S. officials describe that decision as designed to keep Germany happy, but it would still hand Putin considerable leverage.
Still, the tone of this summit is sure to be vastly different from Putin’s first meeting with President Donald Trump in Hamburg, in July 2017.
“We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, and for the United States and for everybody concerned,” Trump said. “It’s an honor to be with you.”
“Phone conversations are never enough, definitely,” the Russian leader said at the time. “If you want to have a positive outcome in bilaterals and be able to resolve most international policy issues, that will really need personal meetings.”
Quote of the day
“This conversation with President Putin is going to be direct; it’s going to be candid,” said White House communications director Kate Bedingfield.
What’s happening now
Prices were up by 5 percent in May compared with a year ago, the largest increase since the Great Recession, Rachel Siegel reports. This continues a steady climb in inflation even as policymakers insist on staying the course. Data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that prices rose 0.6 percent in the past month. “The most recent inflation figures are unlikely to rattle the Biden administration or the Federal Reserve, both of which argue that prices will continue to rise as the economy recovers from the depths of the coronavirus crisis,” Siegel notes.
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- “Kim Jong Un appears to have lost some weight — and that could have geopolitical consequences,” by Michael E. Miller: “After not being seen in public for almost a month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reappeared in state media on Saturday looking noticeably slimmer. ... Kim watchers have seized upon his apparently slimmer waistline as a potential sign of — something. If Kim simply slimmed down to be healthier, then that ‘likely improves his position at home’ and ‘provides more predictability perhaps for regional actors like Japan, [South Korea] and the U.S. who may have greater confidence that he will be running the show,’ Vipin Narang told NK News. ‘If [the sudden weight loss] is due to a health condition though, the jockeying for his succession may already be happening behind the scenes, and that volatility could be trouble for the outside world,’ added Narang, a political science professor at MIT.”
… and beyond
- “The Congressional Black Caucus is blocking a Black Republican from joining the group,” by BuzzFeed News’s Kadia Goba: “Florida Rep. Byron Donalds' office said Donalds has talked to at least three members of the CBC about joining the group, whose members are now at the forefront of police reform talks and responsible for highlighting the racial inequities around COVID-19. He’s not received an answer and the likelihood of that happening a quarter way into the 117th Congress looks bleak.”
- “The city that’s home to Trump’s South Florida resort just voted to ban casinos,” by the Miami Herald’s Samantha Gross and Martin Vassolo: “Count Doral among the latest Miami-Dade cities to erect defenses against casino politics as the prospect of gambling — and a Trump-branded casino — creeps closer. The Doral city council on Wednesday voted 4-0 to ban gambling and casinos from the city unless approved by residents in a referendum, weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis negotiated a $500 million gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Critics believe the compact was tailored to allow casinos at properties such as the Trump National Doral Miami resort or the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, which local officials fear will bring negative impacts to their communities.”
- “Idaho thought it had a $600 million surplus. Now it’s even bigger,” by the Idaho Statesman’s Hayat Normine: “State officials now expect the surplus to total about $800 million by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. And [Gov. Brad] Little said he plans to put some of those extra dollars into education funding. ‘Years of fiscal conservatism, swift action during the pandemic, few COVID restrictions, responsible allocation of federal relief dollars, and our relentless focus on cutting red tape are the reasons Idaho’s economy is catapulting ahead of other states right now,’ Little said.”
More on Biden's trip
Biden and Johnson are expected to renew the Atlantic Charter.
- The two leaders are expected to announce a renewal of the historic joint statement by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941 setting out their goals for cooperation following World War II, John Wagner reports.
- “According to British officials, the new document will outline eight areas where Johnson and Biden will resolve to work together ‘for the benefit of humanity,’ including global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”
- Biden and first lady Jill Biden were greeted by Johnson and his spouse Carrie on a dock overlooking the St. Ives Bay ahead of the leaders’ meeting. “It’s gorgeous,” Biden said upon arrival. “I don’t want to go home.” Biden and Johnson were then led to a building where the Altantic Charter was on display.
- “The two leaders exchanged anecdotes related to World War II and other history as they looked at the old document,” Wagner details. “A few minutes later, they moved to another part of the room and sat in chairs facing the media for photos and exchanged pleasantries.” “I told the prime minister we have something in common: We both married above our station,” Biden said. “I’m not going to disagree with the president on that or anything else,” Johnson replied.
One of the toughest issues Biden is expected to take up with Johnson is Northern Ireland.
- “Brexit-fueled tensions threaten the return of lethal sectarian violence” in the country, the Times reports. “The 1998 Good Friday Agreement ended the Troubles, the 30-year guerrilla war between Catholic nationalists seeking unification with the Republic of Ireland and predominantly Protestant unionists, who want to stay in the United Kingdom. The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland virtually disappeared, allowing unfettered movement of people and commerce.”
- “But now, a part of London’s Brexit deal with Brussels is inflaming resentment among unionists. To avoid resurrecting a hard border with Ireland — an unpopular idea on both sides of the boundary — the Northern Ireland Protocol requires checks on goods flowing between the North and the rest of the United Kingdom.”
- “Irish officials have said they welcomed the Biden administration’s focus on the dispute over the border with Northern Ireland, with prime minister Micheál Martin calling the U.S. president’s interest in the issue a significant development. ‘I think he is saying to the United Kingdom, ‘Let’s do the sensible thing here,’’ Martin told reporters this morning," Adam Taylor reports.
The world’s richest people face a tax blow after their wealth surged 40 percent to $8.4 trillion.
- “The world’s wealthiest 500 individuals are now worth $8.4 trillion, up more than 40% in the year and a half since the global pandemic began its devastation. Meanwhile, the economy’s biggest winners, the tech corporations that created many of these vast fortunes, pay lower tax rates than grocery clerks,” Bloomberg Wealth’s Ben Steverman, Laura Davison and William Horobin report.
- Johnson and Biden are expected to “endorse a plan to plug holes in the world’s leaky tax system." “While the changes still need approval from a larger group of nations, including China, before becoming reality, the agreement by the G-7 marks a historic turning point after decades of falling levies on multinational corporations.”
- “The deal would bolster Biden’s own plans to boost taxes on corporations and the wealthy by raising rates, making heirs pay more, and equalizing rates between investors and workers. The proposals are part of a global revival of initiatives to target the rich, from Buenos Aires to Stockholm to Washington, including new taxes on capital gains, inheritances, and wealth that have gained momentum since Covid-19 blew massive fiscal holes in government budgets around the world.”
An all-trash “Mount Rushmore” depicting G-7 leaders was erected for the summit.
- “‘Mount Recyclemore’ sits on beach dunes opposite the Carbis Bay Hotel, where the summit is taking place. It depicts Biden, Johnson, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel," Antonia Noori Farzan reports.
- Sculptor Joe Rush said the piece of art “highlights the fact that more electronic devices need to be made in a way that allows them to be reused or recycled.”
The Biden agenda
Global approval of the United States has rebounded under Biden, a survey found.
- A Pew Research Center global survey released this morning shows many in advanced economies believe that “America is back.”
- “In the 12 countries surveyed both this year and the last, a median of 75 percent of respondents expressed confidence in Biden to ‘do the right thing regarding world affairs,’ Pew found, compared with 17 percent for Trump last year. Sixty-two percent of respondents now have a favorable view of the United States vs. 34 percent at the end of Trump’s presidency,” Claire Parker writes.
Biden is pursuing “multiple paths forward” for his infrastructure package.
- Before leaving the country, “Biden instructed Democratic leaders in Congress to prepare the groundwork to pass some or all of the ambitious package on their own if there is no deal to be made with Republican lawmakers this summer,” the AP’s Lisa Mascaro and Josh Boak report. “His view is that there are multiple paths forward,” press secretary Jen Psaki said.
- “The current thinking is that it could very well take all approaches to secure a deal: Perhaps Biden can reach a bipartisan accord on the more traditional roads and bridges projects, and then he will need to depend on a party-line vote for the child care centers, veterans hospitals and family-friendly tax policies he wants in the face of Republican resistance.”
The U.S. is weighing airstrikes to support Afghan security forces if Kabul or another major city is at risk of falling to the Taliban.
- “Mr. Biden and his top national security aides had previously suggested that once U.S. troops left Afghanistan, air support would end as well, with the exception of strikes aimed at terrorist groups that could harm American interests. But military officials are actively discussing how they might respond if the rapid withdrawal produces consequences with substantial national security implications,” the Times’s Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff report.
- “No decisions have been made yet, officials said. But they added that one option under consideration would be to recommend that U.S. warplanes or armed drones intervene in an extraordinary crisis, such as the potential fall of Kabul, the Afghan capital, or a siege that puts American and allied embassies and citizens at risk.”
A U.S. solar company will build a new factory in Ohio, giving the president a boost.
- “One of the nation’s biggest solar-energy companies said on Wednesday that it would double production in the United States by opening a third plant in Ohio by the middle of 2023,” the Times’s Ivan Penn reports. “The company, First Solar, said it would invest $680 million to build a new plant in Lake Township, Ohio, which is about an hour south of Cleveland, where it already has a plant. The project is expected to add 500 jobs to the company’s roster of 1,600 employees in the United States.”
- “Biden wants to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the electric grid by 2035[.]"
The E.U. joined Biden’s call for a fresh probe into the pandemic’s origins.
- "We need full transparency in order to learn the lessons. And that’s why we support all the efforts in order to [create] clarity," European Council President Charles Michel said this morning ahead of traveling to the G-7 summit, per Politico. "The world has the right to know what exactly happened in order to be able to learn the lessons."
- The Union is urging China to grant researchers “complete access” for investigation.
The White House confirmed its plans to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to low- and middle-income countries.
- “The move marks a dramatic increase in the efforts of the United States to help vaccinate more of the global population during the pandemic,” Wagner writes. “In a fact sheet released earlier Thursday, the White House said the move would be ‘the largest-ever purchase and donation of vaccines by a single country and a commitment by the American people to help protect people around the world from COVID-19.’”
- “In his remarks from Cornwall, England, Biden will also call on the world’s democracies ‘to do their parts’ in contributing to the global vaccine supply.”
Europe is still in danger of a coronavirus resurgence even as cases fall, the WHO warned, because current vaccination coverage is not enough.
- “ ‘Vaccination coverage is far from sufficient to protect the region from a resurgence,’ WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge said. ‘The distance to go before reaching at least 80 percent coverage of the adult population is still considerable.’ ”
- “European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday that more than 50 percent of adults in the European Union have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Another 100 million Europeans are fully vaccinated, she said.”
Hot on the left
The Keystone XL oil pipeline was called off by its developer, and many on the left rejoiced. The decision brought "an end to a yearslong controversy over an effort to pipe more Canadian crude to the U.S.,” the WSJ’s Timothy Puko and Vipal Monga report. “It marks a historic victory for environmentalists who for a decade have made Keystone XL the focus of a campaign to block new pipeline construction as a way to limit oil consumption that contributes to global warming.”
Hot on the right
Arizona’s controversial election review is drawing Republicans from across the nation. “Republicans from a growing number of states are traveling to Maricopa County in Arizona to witness a controversial election review ordered by GOP leaders in the state Senate, a sign that similar probes may be sought elsewhere across the country,” NPR’s Ben Giles reports. “Last week, three Pennsylvania legislators toured Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where a hand recount of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County has been underway since late April. On Monday, officials with the Nevada Republican Party toured the recount. ... A day later, two Republican state senators from Georgia took a similar tour alongside a state representative from Alaska. So did David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia GOP.”
D.C. abortion funding, visualized
As some states push forward with antiabortion legislation, more people are coming to the D.C. metro area from out of state to terminate their pregnancies. Patients not only need help paying for an abortion, but also to cover travel expenses, time off work and child care. While national funding blunted the impact for a while, the increased costs are now being sought from local funds.
Today in Washington
The Bidens met with Johnson this morning, U.S. time. Biden then traveled to St. Ives, Cornwall, and will deliver remarks on efforts to combat the pandemic globally at 6:15 p.m., U.K. time.
Seth Meyers said newly unveiled calls from Rudy Giuliani pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election are impressive because Trump's allies keep getting caught on tape: