'It was smart for President Biden to meet with all of our allies ahead of the Putin meeting,' but not much was going on in them: CEPA President

Center for European Policy Analysis President and CEO Alina Polyakova, joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down Biden's meetings with the G-7 leaders.

Video transcript


SEANA SMITH: So the summit between President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin has come to a conclusion. Let's try to understand what will happen next. And we invite into the stream Alina Polyakova. She is the Center for European Policy analysis president and CEO Alina, it is good to have you here.

And one of the things that jumped out to a lot of us was, when President Biden was asked about the cybersecurity issues and the cyber hacks, and he said, look, the United States essentially has tremendous cyber ability, the implication being to cause havoc in Russia if this kind of behavior continues against us. Aren't these essentially acts of war? And if you make a threat, you have to be willing to deliver. What did you make of that?

ALINA POLYAKOVA: Well, that was a really interesting moment in that separate press briefing that President Putin had and then President Biden followed. It seemed more of a read between the lines kind of moment, where President Biden was trying to tell us, the public, that he delivered a strong message to President Putin, saying, if you keep attacking us, whether that's through cyber criminal groups that you're harboring in Russia's borders or whether that's the Russian government itself, there will be some consequences to pay.

And I think that's what President Biden was alluding to when he made that comment. But it certainly sets us in a potentially dangerous escalatory trajectory if that's where we end up, in some sort of tit-for-tat in the cyber domain. That could get dangerous really quick. And I'm sure that is what Mr. Biden is hoping to avoid when he makes that kind of underhanded threat, if you will.

SEANA SMITH: Alina, how blunt are these types of discussions? Are they as direct as the two leaders during the press conferences, as they lead us to believe they are?

ALINA POLYAKOVA: Look, it's really hard to know because in this particular meeting, there were other advisors in the room, unlike the 2018 Helsinki summit between then-President Trump and, again, President Putin, who's been in power for 21 years and has had his fair share of these kinds of meetings and summits, certainly.

We know that President Putin tends to be more diplomatic, more muted, tends to stick to his talking points, basically what we heard in the public conference when there's others in the room. So I would be surprised if the face-to-face, closed-door discussion was very direct, very open. I'm guessing it was more what we heard, Mr. Putin laying out his view of the world, which include a lot of fabrications, a lot of disinformation and propaganda, Mr. Biden disagreeing at the end, finding themselves kind of opposite sides on many of the issues they discussed.

ADAM SHAPIRO: What about the issue that President Biden said, which goes along with this, the relationship between the two countries has to be stable and predictable? But when he said the motivating factor for Putin would be that his country loses stature on the world stage every time it resorts to the shenanigans, such as the hacking, is that something the rest of the world really buys into?

ALINA POLYAKOVA: Well, I think we have to keep in mind that what really motivates Mr. Putin at the end-- and of course, this is not something that, I think, President Biden would or should say in public, and he didn't. Mr. Putin is really motivated by his own desire to remain in power for as long as possible.

And when we see him giving these high-profile press conferences, we have to keep in mind that Mr. Putin doesn't get that many moments to shine in the limelight where every single global news agency is there, pointing the camera at him, waiting to hear what he's going to say. So he really loves these kinds of opportunities to get his world view out there.

And I think certainly, who he's actually speaking to is not the United States, it's not the international community. It is his domestic audience. And domestically, for better or for worse, Mr. Putin remains quite popular.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Alina, before President Biden met with Vladimir Putin, he met with the G7 leaders. When he started the trip, what, just around eight days ago, there was questions about whether or not he would be able to successfully repair some of the damaged relationships with the leaders of those countries. Do you think he was able to successfully do that?

ALINA POLYAKOVA: Well, I think, certainly, it was smart of President Biden to meet with all of our allies ahead of the Putin meeting. He did receive some criticism for not meeting with Ukraine's President Zelensky. But then the White House extended an invitation to Ukraine's president for July, noticeably did not extend the invitation to President Biden at this meeting.

So I think certainly, what I think Mr. Biden was able to do is set a very good foundation for our alliances. It is no secret that the last administration did damage to our alliance structures. There was very little trust. And I think Mr. Biden prides himself as the kind of leader who likes to build relationships. And the base of those relationships, to get things done.

And we saw just such a positive rapport between him and European leaders, NATO leaders as well. And I think that sent a clear message, hopefully, to Mr. Putin-- the intent was to send the clear message that, look, we're not coming to you just as the United States alone. It's not about America first anymore. We're coming to you as an alliance of democracies.

But of course, the disappointment, to my mind, was that we didn't get any clear agreements, the G7 allies or even the NATO allies, to do something about Russia's aggressive behavior. So the optics were great. But in terms of what we got out of all those meetings, it wasn't that much.

SEANA SMITH: What should we expect to see next then from Russia and from Putin? There was concern in the previous administration that there's almost this acquiescence of appeasement. And I remember there would be discussions among people like you on television about, would Russia make moves against some of its neighbors. Do we need to still pay attention to that?

ALINA POLYAKOVA: Absolutely. I think it's very unlikely that we're going to see some real significant 180-degree changes in Russian behavior. Mr. Putin has been in power for a very long time. This is not his first rodeo with an American leader. And I think the Kremlin has come to the conclusion that, look, at the end the day, it doesn't matter who's in the White House, Republican or Democrat.

Every US President tries to have a better relationship with us. They tell us they want a better relationship. But we're not going to get there. And so I think Mr. Putin is not going to change his approach now. We certainly didn't see any signs of that in his press conference where he repeated some of the same old talking points, as he's always done.

So I think it's now, as President Biden said, it's a wait-and-see. The ball is in Russia's court. We made our gesture that we want more positive, more constructive, more stable, more predictable relationship. And now it's up to Mr. Putin to show some goodwill.

I'm very skeptical that he will do so. I'm very skeptical that Russia is going to change its occupation of Ukraine's Crimea or Ukraine's Eastern Territories. It's not really in their interest to do so. I hope I'm wrong. But unfortunately, I don't think this meeting is going to change much. I think it was a good optics opportunity, good PR opportunity for Mr. Putin. I think Mr. Biden got to deliver his message. But beyond that, we're likely going to be in this holding pattern with Russia for the foreseeable future.

SEANA SMITH: Alina Polyakova is Center for European policy analysis president and CEO. Thank you for joining us. We look forward to your insight in the near future.