At G20 Obama Says Putin ‘Less Colorful’ Than Trump, Talks Hacking of U.S. Election

Last updated on July 17th, 2023 at 09:08 pm

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Asked if he thought “Russia is trying to influence the U.S. election through hacking,” President Obama answered that “President Putin is less colorful, but typically the tone of our meetings are candid, blunt, businesslike,” and that this meeting “was no different.”

Obama talked about U.S. Russian relations generally before answering that

And finally, we did talk about cybersecurity, generally. I’m not going to comment on specific investigations that are still live and active. But I will tell you that we’ve had problems with cyber intrusions from Russia in the past, from other countries in the past. And, look, we’re moving into a new era here where a number of countries have significant capacities. And, frankly, we got more capacity than anybody both offensively and defensively. But our goal is not to suddenly, in the cyber arena, duplicate a cycle of escalation that we saw when it comes to other arms races in the past, but rather to start instituting some norms so that everybody is acting responsibly.
We’re going to have enough problems in the cyberspace with non-state actors who are engaging in theft and using the Internet for all kinds of illicit practices, and protecting our critical infrastructure, and making sure that our financial systems are sound. And what we cannot do is have a situation in which suddenly this becomes the Wild, Wild West, where countries that have significant cyber capacity start engaging in competition — unhealthy competition or conflict through these means when, I think, wisely we’ve put in place some norms when it comes to using other weapons.
So that’s been a topic of conversation with President Putin as it has been with other countries. We’ve started to get some willingness on the part of a lot of countries around the world, including through our G20 process, to adopt these norms, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re observing them.

Vladimir Putin also spoke of his take on meeting the American president, saying Russia would like to “normalize in full our relations with the United States too,” which he called “a very important partner in our eyes.”

In an interview with Bloomberg on September 1, Putin had denied any knowledge of the hacking of the Democratic Party database, saying,

I know nothing. There are a lot of hackers today, you know, and they perform their work in such a filigreed and delicate manner and they can show their “tracks” anywhere and anytime. It may not even be a track; they can cover their activity so that it looks like hackers operating from other territories, from other countries. It is hard to check this activity, maybe not even possible. Anyway, we do not do that at the national level.

It is clear that relations between Putin and Obama are tense, but given tensions in Ukraine and Syria, not to mention the recent hacking allegations, this hardly comes as a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that Putin would deny those allegations. No world leader would be likely to admit to them.

Obama, as ever, seeks pragmatic solutions rather than choosing to escalate tensions, as Donald Trump would be likely to do in reacting to any imagined slight. Trump wants tough; Obama gave America tough, and without the emotional strings attached.


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