President Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “worthy adversary” at a press conference following a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday — days after Putin praised former president Donald Trump and called Biden a “career man” in an interview.
“He’s bright, he’s tough, and I’ve found that he is — as they say when I used to play ball — a worthy adversary,” Biden said of Putin.
“I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. president,” Putin recently told NBC News in his first interview with a U.S. news network since 2018. “He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. And, but he didn’t come from the U.S. establishment, he had not been part of big-time politics before, and some like it some don’t like it but that is a fact.”
Biden, meanwhile, “is radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man. He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics,” Putin said.
The two leaders will meet in Geneva on Wednesday.
Biden made several comments on Monday that could play into the meeting. He brought up the issue of jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
“Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights. It would be a tragedy. It would do nothing but hurt his relationships with the rest of the world, in my view,” Biden said.
Biden also brought up Ukraine, whose president has pushed for accelerated entry into NATO after Russian amassed troops at the two countries’ border.
“I shared with our allies what I’ll convey to President Putin, that I’m not looking for conflict with Russia, but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities. We will not fail to defend the transatlantic alliance or stand up for democratic values. As allies, we also affirmed our continued support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said.
The press conference started roughly two and a half hours late with no explanation, although Biden apologized to reporters..
Trump was a frequent critic of NATO, but Biden has reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to NATO.
Biden is coming off his first G-7 summit as president. During a press conference on Sunday, he harped on the theme of democracies versus autocracies when asked about G-7 leaders’ response to China’s alleged human rights violations in the Xinjiang Province.
“As you know, the last time the G-7 met, there was no mention of China. But this time there is mention of China. The G-7 explicitly agreed to call out human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong,” Biden said. “I know this is going to sound somewhat prosaic, but I think we’re in a contest, not with China per se, but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st century.”
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.