US President Joe Biden has said he is open to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to hand cybercriminals back to the United States if Washington does the same for Moscow, just days before the two leaders meet for a summit in Geneva. .
Biden and Putin will sit in Switzerland on Wednesday for their first meeting face to face since Biden was sworn in as President of the United States. The two leaders said this weekend that relations between their two countries were at an all-time low, but Biden’s latest comments suggest there may be room for cooperation.
Speaking after a meeting of G7 leaders in the UK on Sunday, Biden told reporters he was receptive to Putin’s suggestion of a reciprocal extradition of cybercriminals responsible for disruptive ransomware attacks .
Earlier Sunday, Russian state television broadcast an interview with Putin in which the Russian president said Russia and the United States must “make equal commitments.”
“Russia will do it naturally, but only if the other party – in this case the United States – agrees to the same and will also extradite the corresponding criminals to the Russian Federation.”
Asked about Putin’s comments, Biden said: “Yes, I am open to, if there are crimes committed against Russia, that in fact people committing these crimes are being hosted in the United States, I pledges to hold them accountable. ”
“I was told while I was flying here, that [Putin] says that, ”Biden added. “I think this is potentially a good sign of progress.”
A growing number of bold ransomware attacks have crippled businesses in recent weeks. These include the disruption of the Colonial pipeline which provides oil supplies for much of America’s east coast, as well as operations at JBS, the Brazilian meat processing company. The White House said it believed both attacks came from Russia.
Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, later said Biden had not signed a “prisoner swap.”
“What he was saying is that if Vladimir Putin wants to come and say that I am ready to hold cybercriminals accountable, Joe Biden is perfectly willing to come forward and say that cybercriminals can be held accountable. in America because they already are. That’s what we are doing, ”Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One en route to the NATO summit in Brussels, the second leg of the first overseas tour of Biden as president.
“It’s not about trading or trading or anything like that.”
Putin told NBC News in an interview broadcast Friday that relations between the United States and Russia were at their “lowest point in recent years.” Biden said on Sunday he agreed with the characterization, but also highlighted areas where he believed the two countries could work together.
The White House confirmed on Saturday that Biden will hold a solo press conference after the summit with Putin on Wednesday, rather than share a scene like his predecessor Donald Trump did with the Russian president in Helsinki in 2018.
“This is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass themselves,” Biden said. “It’s about telling me very clearly what the conditions are to have a better relationship.
He added: “Russia has engaged in activities which, in our opinion, are contrary to international standards. But they also stung real problems that they are going to have a hard time chewing. For example, the reconstruction of Syria, of Libya.
“I hope we can find housing that can save people’s lives, for example in Libya. “