President Joe Biden said he’d only meet with Vladimir Putin to discuss the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, but would not talk with the Russian leader about the war in Ukraine without Kyiv’s involvement.
In an exclusive CNN interview, Biden called Putin a “rational actor” who badly misjudged his ability to invade Ukraine and suppress its people.
“I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” Biden told Jake Tapper as Russia's bombing of civilians in Ukraine has marked another tragic turning point in the war, now in its eighth month.
When asked if he'd meet Putin at next month’s Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, Biden said he didn’t see a good reason for a sit-down unless he could talk with Putin about Brittney Griner, now in her eighth month in a Moscow prison. Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 for possessing less than a gram of cannabis oil in her baggage. Russia invaded Ukraine seven days later.
"Look, I have no intention of meeting with him, but look, if he came to me at the G20 and said, 'I want to talk about the release of Griner,' I would meet with him, but that would depend," Biden said. “It would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about.”
Biden told Tapper that he doesn't believe there is a need to speak with Putin outside of specific issues and that Putin is behaving brutally.
"He's acted brutally, I think he's committed war crimes, and so I don't… see any rationale to meet with him now."
Biden was asked again about the possibility of speaking to Putin about Griner with reporters outside of the White House on Wednesday, according to Reuters. He said there has been no movement from Putin on the possibility of a prisoner exchange with Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan also imprisoned in Russia.
For several months, the White House has been in talks with Russian officials over the release of Griner and Whelan. Biden said in August that he was hopeful a deal could be made though since then, there have been few signs of progress from either side.
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