WASHINGTON - The United States and Russia sparred Sunday about responsibility for debilitating cyberattacks as U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin prepared for their summit in Geneva on Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC's "This Week" show, "No responsible country should be in the business of harboring in any way criminal organizations engaged in cyberattacks, including ransomware."
Blinken said Biden "is going to make that very clear to President Putin. We are looking for Russian cooperation in dealing with these criminal organizations to the extent they're operating from Russian territory."
Two key U.S. businesses, Colonial Pipeline Co., that transports fuel in the southeastern U.S., and the JBS meat production company, were targeted last month in cyberattacks believed to have originated in Russia, with both Colonial and JBS paying millions of dollars in ransom demands to restore their business operations, although U.S. law enforcement officials have recovered some of the money Colonial paid.
Putin told the state TV channel Rossiya-1 on Sunday that Russia was willing to extradite cyber criminals on an equal basis with the U.S., although it was not clear what attacks on Russian corporate entities he was claiming had originated in the United States.
The Russian leader said Moscow and Washington must "assume equal commitments" in transferring suspects, saying, "Russia will naturally do that but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees to the same and will also extradite corresponding criminals to the Russian Federation."
Biden said at a G-7 news conference in Britain that negotiation is possible but was skeptical that Putin's behavior would change.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week that the "issue of ransomware attacks" would be discussed at the Biden-Putin summit.
"We have raised the issue of ransomware attacks with any number of countries and that includes Russia," Price said.
Blinken told ABC that Biden hopes "to see if we can have a more predictable, stable relationship (with Russia), but equally to make clear that if Russia chooses to continue to act aggressively, to act recklessly, we'll respond forcefully."
The top U.S. diplomat said he believes Biden will be meeting with Putin in a new position of strength after broad agreement on Western goals cemented at the weekend G-7 meeting of the leaders of the top industrialized countries and likely shared economic, military and security commitments at Monday's NATO summit and U.S.-European Union talks on Tuesday.
"We're now coming off of G-7, we'll be coming off of NATO, we'll be coming off an EU meeting," Blinken said. "Collectively, when our countries are actually working together, rolling in the same direction militarily, economically, diplomatically, politically, it's an incredibly powerful force."
"We represent together more than 57% of the world's GDP, and one of the things you may have noticed this week is there was a poll done across most of the countries that we'll be working with this week; 75% now have confidence in President Biden and in American leadership," Blinken said.
"That's up from 17% a year ago," he said. "That means we're in a much stronger position than we've been in recent years to have all of our countries working together in common cause, including dealing with the excesses of Russia."
The Russian leader told NBC News in an interview last week that Russia's relationship with the United States has "deteriorated to its lowest point" in recent years, and belittled Biden's background as a career politician in the U.S.
Putin praised former U.S. President Donald Trump as an "extraordinary, talented individual," while describing Biden as a "career man."
"He's spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics. Just think of the number of years he spent in the Senate. A different kind of person," Putin said.
As Biden arrived last week in Britain for the G-7 summit, he said, "We're committed to leading with strength, defending our values, delivering for our people."
Biden said that he was meeting with Putin to "let him know what I want him to know."