Joe Biden

On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Previewing the G7 Summit

June 11, 2024

Via Teleconference

3:16 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks so much for joining this on-the-record gaggle to preview the G7 and go through the news of day with White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby.

Kirby will have a few words at the top, and then we'll take your questions.

Kirby, I'll turn it over to you.

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Eduardo. Hey. Good afternoon, everybody.

I think as you all know, tomorrow President Biden will be heading to Puglia, Italy, for the G7 Leaders' Summit.

I want to start by just taking a quick step back to the President's very first G7 in Cornwall. The leaders hadn't been in person for years at that point because of the pandemic, and there was a real sense of relief in the room that America was back and actually leading at the table. And that's still more true now than ever. The President's message on that G7 in Cornwall was that we need to step up in solidarity and demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people and for people all over the world.

And for the past few years, we've done that in a number of areas. That includes in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which not only threatens democracy in Ukraine but actually affects security across the European continent as well, and also affects the post-World War Two international order that the President talked about very eloquently in Normandy last week.

At the G7 meeting later this week, our commitment to Ukraine will continue to be right up front and clear. We will take bold steps to show Mr. Putin that time is not on his side and that he cannot outlast us, as we support Ukraine's fight for freedom.

First, we will announce new steps to unlock the value of the immobilized Russian sovereign assets to benefit Ukraine and to help them recover from the destruction that Mr. Putin's army has caused.

On Thursday, President Biden and President Zelenskyy will sit down to discuss our strong support for Ukraine now and into the future. And following that meeting, both leaders, President Biden and President Zelenskyy, will participate in a news conference.

Throughout the last two and a half years, we've also stood up to Putin in other ways: imposing the strongest set of sanctions and export controls ever placed on a major economy; moving in lockstep to immobilize Russia's sovereign assets to deprive Putin's war machine of critical funding; and to enforce a price cap on Russian oil.

We're going to continue to drive up costs for the Russian war machine. And this week, we will announce an impactful set of new sanctions and export control actions.

These actions will follow through on several of the commitments that G7 leaders have made to date. The actions will target the entities and networks that are helping Russia procure what it needs for its war. They will make it harder for financial facilitators, for instance, to support Russia's defense industrial base. And they will further restrict Russia's future revenues in key sectors.

Now, you'll also see in Italy that the G7 is more unified than ever as we stand up for shared values, to tackle global challenges, and to renew our commitment to partners around the world that we will help them invest in bright futures for their people.

We will build on the progress we made last year on our shared approach to the Indo-Pacific as well, including by advancing an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, secure, prosperous, resilient, and connected.

We will address the PRC's support for the Russian defense industrial base. And we will confront China's non-market policies that are leading to harmful global spillovers, working with partners in and beyond the G7 to promote economic resilience and security.

This year, President Biden will again host a side event that will highlight our positive value proposition to countries around the world via the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, or PGI.

We will continue to offer a path to help countries overcome unsustainable debt burdens, to boost the World Bank's lending firepower, to mobilize additional capital for high-standard infrastructure investments, and to make new commitments on food and health security.

And as many of you saw, leaders will be joined by His Holiness, Pope Francis, for a session on artificial intelligence, among other topics. This will be an important moment for our countries to come together and develop our shared approach to harnessing the benefits of AI while at the same time managing the risks to our national security and impacts that it may have to our workforces and inequality.

The bottom line here is that President Biden believes we must continue to imagine, to event -- invent, I'm sorry, and to inspire. And we are committed to investing in that vision with our closest allies. We are very confident that if we do, the United States will continue to lead on the world stage for generations to come.

So the President is very excited about getting over to Italy and having these important discussions at the G7. And I said -- as I said earlier, you'll all be able to hear directly from him and President Zelenskyy as well.

One last point before I turn it over to questions.

On behalf of the entire press team at the NSC, I want to congratulate Michael Feldman and his new bride, Wendy, who got married over the weekend in Virginia. Exciting time for them as they start a whole new chapter in their lives. And we wish them all the best and all the happiness.

As I've long noted and known myself, marriage is the only ocean for which no compass has yet been invented. And I think that's one of the most special things about it. You start on a journey together; you don't really know how long it's going go and how far and how -- and where you're going to go. And I think that's the exciting thing about it. And we're all excited for Michael and Wendy.

And with that, we can take some questions.

MODERATOR: Thanks. Our first question will go to the line of Colleen Long. You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q: Thank you. Hey, Kirby. Two things. On the G7, I wondered what the likelihood is that the G7 nations are going to agree to the $50 billion loan to Ukraine using frozen assets.

And then on Hamas, the ceasefire deal, it looks like they've given mediators back a reply on the proposed deal with some remarks. I wondered if this is, you know, good enough progress, if the U.S. is still sort of believing that the ceasefire deal is imminent. If you could update us on that.

MR. KIRBY: Hey, Colleen. I won't get ahead of the discussions on the frozen assets. As I said, that will be a topic of discussion. The President will continue to reiterate our desire to move in lockstep with our allies and partners on using those frozen assets appropriately to help with reconstruction in Ukraine.

As I said in my opening statement, there'll be some announcements on that. But I don't want to get too far ahead of all that. And I certainly won't speak for other of our G7 partners.

But I just want to circle back and just -- as I said before, the only way this works is if we do have participation and support from other nations. But as I said, there'll be some announcements on that. And I think I best leave it at that for right now.

On your second question, we're in receipt of this reply that Hamas delivered to Qatar and to Egypt. And we are evaluating it right now. And I think that's really as far as I'm going to go today -- just that we have this response, and we're working our way through it and looking at it. And I think, really, that's where I'm going to have to leave it.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to Andrea Mitchell. You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q: Thank you very much. I understand that, but there's some language in it that indicates that they might still be wanting to continue the hostilities. Do you think it's at least helpful that they have responded?

And what is your assessment of the Wall Street Journal's report with communications from Sinwar that seem to be -- that are taking, you know, pleasure in the death of civilians and thinking that it is to the advantage of Hamas to have so many people being killed?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, on your first question, it's certainly helpful that we have a response, Andrea. No question about that. I mean, we've been eagerly awaiting a response.

But as for the reported details that may be out there, I think I'm just going to demur right now. We've only just gotten it. Our team is going through it. As I understand, the Qataris and the Egyptians are as well. And I think we just need to reserve comment until we've had a chance to fully examine it. And I hope people can understand that.

I know it's not a super satisfying answer for you all this afternoon, but it's really the most responsible thing that we can do right now, is to really kind of take the thing in full and take our time to go through it to make sure we fully understand it.

I'm not in a position to confirm the specific reporting in the Wall Street Journal about Sinwar, but I will say this: It should come as a shock to no one that Mr. Sinwar cares nothing at all about the lives of innocent Palestinians that have been caught up in this war, a war he started. And it should surprise and shock no one that a beast like Mr. Sinwar would actually take glee in it and see advantage to it.

Again, without confirming the specifics of the reporting, it is -- in general, it's certainly not uncharacteristic of the brutality that this man is capable of and the willingness that he has shown himself able or capable of, since the beginning, of trying to advance his own agenda on the backs of and in the lives of innocent Palestinians living in Gaza.

And it should underscore and be a reminder to everybody how this war started, how quickly it could end if Mr. Sinwar didn't have these predilections and would do the right thing, and exactly what Hamas as an organization is still capable of. I think I'll leave it at that.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to Josh Wingrove.

Josh, if you're speaking, we can't hear you.

Q: Hey, thanks so much. Sorry about that. John, are you able to talk a little bit more about the sanctions that you mentioned at the top of the call?

MR. KIRBY: No, Josh. I'm really going to leave it to the opening statement. There'll be some announcements on that, ways in which we're going to increase pressure -- economic pressure on Russia, as I said, specifically around its defense industrial base. But I do hope you can understand that I'm not prepared to use today's gaggle to actually make those announcements.

Q: And can you give us any indication as to whether the President plans to speak with Prime Minister Modi, assuming he's still planning on attending, and whether they will discuss the allegations with respect to the alleged plot targeting a national on U.S. soil? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: The President -- he's looking forward to speaking to all the leaders of the G7, and he'll take advantage of every opportunity he's got to do that. I don't have something on the -- I don't have anything on the calendar that I can point to right now at this point. I know on the flight over you all will be hearing from Jake a little bit more. I think Jake will be able to provide a little bit more flesh on the bone for what the schedule is going to look like. I don't have anything more right now.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to the line of Nadia Charters.

Q: Thank you, Eduardo. Hi, John. Hello from Italy. Hope to see you soon. I have two questions. Number one is: How does this recent European election and the rise of the right will affect a long-term cooperation between the U.S. and your allies, especially with regarding Ukraine?

And second about the Gaza proposal. There's some kind of, like, understanding with either from the Israelis or Hamas that they can still fight whether it is they agree to the term or not? Is the proposal unambiguous enough for the two sides to accept it but to lead them to believe that actually they can continue the way they believe that they can score victory?

MR. KIRBY: Look, on your first question, the results were

mixed inside various countries and they were mixed across Europe. And, look, you know, that's democracy. And democracy, as the President said in Normandy, is an incredibly powerful force for humanity around the world, and we respect it. And more critically, we respect our allies and partners across the continent of Europe.

And we have every bit -- every confidence that regardless of who gets what seat in the EU parliament, that we're going to be able to continue to work with all our allies and partners, and we're going to continue to work with the EU. And we look forward to continuing our great relationship with President von der Leyen. And we're not at all concerned that we're not still going to be able to advance shared interests and values across the European continent and continue to support, as we have supported with our EU partners, Ukraine's fight for its freedom and its territorial integrity.

On your second question: Again, I'm not going to provide any context or details about this response, which just came in and which our team is evaluating and our friends in Qatar and Egypt are as well.

I would just say -- I would just point you back to the way the President characterized this: that if we can get this deal in place, in phase one the fighting stops; the fighting stops all across Gaza. That's what phase one is all about. That's how you get the hostages out safely, and that's how you get, hopefully, up to 600 trucks a day going into Gaza, is with a calm -- a sustainable calm that can potentially lead to phase two, which could lead to a cessation of hostilities altogether.

So if the deal is entered into by both sides, then you get a ceasefire, at least for six weeks, which means no fighting anywhere in Gaza.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to MJ Lee.

Q: Thank you. Just back to the Hamas response to the ceasefire proposal. Can you give us even a general sense of whether the changes that they say they are demanding are significant or not? And is it also your understanding that the response came from Sinwar and had his blessing?

And then just secondly -- obviously understand the primary focus of this briefing, but given the significant news today, just as the President's advisor and a spokesperson for this White House, can you give us a sense of how the President has been processing the news of his son's conviction and just where his head is right now?

MR. KIRBY: MJ, two very fair questions, and I'm afraid I'm just not going to be able to be helpful on either of them. I really don't want to prejudice or get ahead of our review of the text here. So I'm not going to get into content one way or the other at this point.

It has in the past, and so it is today, our assumption that if Hamas has delivered a response to Qatar, which they have, that it comes with Mr. Sinwar's approbation. That's the way Hamas has operated in the past -- that Sinwar has to sign off on it. That's certainly our assumption going into this text here.

But I need to reserve any comment until the experts have had a chance to go through it and make their own assessments.

Again, this just happened within the last couple of hours, guys, so just -- I understand that -- I do really understand the interest in it, but we're just going to need to take the time to work through that text in the right way. And again, I hope you all can understand it.

There's a whole heck of a lot riding here, a whole lot at stake, and not the least of which -- in fact, the most important of which is the lives of these hostages and their families. And we just -- we need to be very, very careful about what we say and how we say it. And this just came across the desk, and so we're going to take the time to evaluate it the right way and figure out what the next step is going to be.

And on your second question, that's well beyond the scope of my duties at the National Security Council, and I'm simply not able to speak to that one way or the other.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to the line of Aurelia End. You should be able to --

Q: Hi. Thanks so much for taking my question. The first question is just to clarify: These announcements on the frozen assets and on sanctions, will those G7 announcements or will those be announcement from this administration?

And second question: The President goes to Europe just after elections that have shown a rise in -- you know, from populist parties and parties that for some of them have clear pro-Russia positions. So how concerned is he about that?

And also, more precisely, is he ready to maybe in a few weeks work with a far-right-led government in France?

MR. KIRBY: The President will work with the democratically elected leaders of France no matter who they are. As he said when we were in Normandy and in Paris, France is our oldest ally, and we will always work with whoever the French people decide to elect as their representatives. Full stop right there.

On your second question: As I said, we have every confidence that regardless of who fills what seats in the EU parliament, we're going to continue to work closely with President von der Leyen and our EU partners on all the issues relative to our shared interest across the European continent, and that includes supporting Ukraine. And I'll leave it at that. We're confident in that.

And, dang it, I didn't write down your first question. What the heck was it again?

Q: I was asking: These announcements this week on frozen assets and on sanctions, are those going to be common G7 announcements or only U.S. announcements?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I think, again, you're going to -- the issue of the frozen assets will actually be on the agenda. You'll see those leaders talk about the need to move in lockstep, as we have in the past, to immobilize these Russian sovereign assets.

And I think you're going to see -- what I can say is: You'll see -- I think you're going to see unanimity here at the G7 when it comes to working towards using these frozen assets to help Ukraine with their reconstruction. I'll leave it at that.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to Marek. You should be able to unmute yourself.

Q: Thank you, Eduardo. Hi, John. The NATO Summit is just a month away from now, here in Washington. How far is NATO from a consensus on the next Secretary General?

MR. KIRBY: Marek, I wouldn't be able to answer that one. That's really for the Alliance to speak to, and I'm not going to get ahead of the Alliance on that and who the next Secretary General is. That's beyond the scope of my ability today.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to Patsy.

Q: Thank you, Eduardo. Hi, John. First question: How confident is the President that there will be a G7 agreement on a concrete plan to deal with Chinese overcapacity?

And to follow up on the questions on the surge of far-right parties, I thought I heard you say that the President is looking forward to a great relationship with President von der Leyen. So are you saying that he is confident that Ursula von der Leyen will secure a second term?

And just last on logistics, if I may: Will the President have a bilat with Giorgia Meloni and also an audience with the Pope, and when? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, again, on the specific meetings with specific leaders, you'll hear more from Jake tomorrow and more details about the agenda. I'll defer to Jake on that.

And my comments about President von der Leyen were certainly representative of what we generally believe to be the likely outcome here.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to Karen DeYoung.

Q: Thanks, John. In their response to the U.N. resolution yesterday and in their response today, Hamas said that what they're seeking is a commitment to a permanent ceasefire and full Israeli withdrawal. As I understand the plan, as the President explains it, negotiations in phase one are open-ended until -- assuming that both sides act in good faith -- until there's an agreement to a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal. So, in other words, in phase one, a ceasefire would continue. Israel has never committed to that and, in fact, has said it's not finished with its operations in Gaza.

Based on the administration's conversations with the Israelis, do you believe that Israel has committed to that and is prepared to say so publicly or (inaudible)?

MR. KIRBY: This is an Israeli proposal, Karen, and they've acknowledged that themselves. This is an Israeli proposal. The President accurately and meticulously identified the details of it to include, as you rightly point out, what would happen in phase two.

Now, the phase two negotiations obviously haven't begun because we're not even in phase one. But the idea of getting to phase one is you use that six weeks to start negotiating phase two. But you accurately depicted what would happen in phase two, and the Israelis have said that that is their proposal.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to Molly Nagle.

Q: Hi. Thanks so much for doing this. I wanted to see if you could confirm -- there are reports that President Biden has approved the deployment of another Patriot missile system to Ukraine and that it could be deployed to the frontlines in the next several days. Can you confirm this report?

MR. KIRBY: No, I cannot.

MODERATOR: Next up we'll go to Jake Epstein.

Q: Hey, can you guys hear me?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I got you.

Q: Hey, thanks for having this. I have a quick question on the Houthis. The U.S. Navy continues to expend lots of resources fighting the Houthis. For instance, they've fired off more than 500 munitions costing some $1 billion, and yet the Houthis have continued to attack ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. I'm wondering how sustainable is the U.S. naval presence in the region and how long does the administration expect that this can go on for.

MR. KIRBY: Without getting into, you know, inventory levels and resupply -- you know, that gets you into an operational security environment pretty dang quick in talking about making sure ships are armed and ready.

I can tell you that President Biden and the entire national security team is committed to making sure this coalition of more than 20 nations that are operating in and around the Red Sea to defend and to defeat Houthi attacks on commercial shipping remains high. And we will continue to do everything that we can to knock that steel out of the sky and make sure that our Navy is fully prepared to do so.

It is still -- you know, you're asking me -- if you're asking me -- and I'm not suggesting you are; but if you are, like, you know, what date on the calendar does this operation end, I would tell you we don't have a date on the calendar right now because it's still a very viable threat. And shipping companies are still making pretty dang tough decisions about what route they're going to take to get goods to market. And we want to make sure that they have a measure of confidence that they can still travel through the Red Sea.

So the mission is still alive. It's still viable. And, quite frankly, we believe it's still vital. And we're going to treat it that way when it comes to resourcing it.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more question. We'll go to the line of Laura Kelly.

Q: Hi. Thank you so much for taking my question. Looking ahead at the G7 and the NATO Summit in Washington, how concerned is the U.S. about increasing Russian hybrid attacks

on NATO member states in Europe? We saw those that are attributed to Russia and those that are suspected of being attributed to Russia. And do we see that the U.S. and allies are going to make any statements addressing this or have any work done about taking some sort of action? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: I don't have anything with respect to statements about these hybrid attacks at the G7. But make no mistake, as I mentioned in my opening statement: What Russia has done in Ukraine and what they continue to do or try to do across the landscape of the European continent remains a significant concern for President Biden, certainly for our entire national security team and those of our G7 partners. And I have little doubt that the full scope of Russia's malign activities will be discussed at the G7.

But as to what individual leaders plan to say about all that, you know, I certainly can't predict. We are watching these, quote, unquote, "hybrid attacks," to use your phrase,

closely. We are certainly mindful that these are the kinds of things that Russia has done in the past and has certainly continued to prove their capability of doing now. It is of a page from their playbook.

And as I said in my opening statement, we will continue to examine, pursue, and announce measures to hold Russia accountable, certainly for what they're doing in Ukraine, and to make it harder for their defense industrial base to continue to

threaten the security of not only the Ukrainian people but the European continent. I'll leave it at that.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Kirby. And thanks, everyone, for joining. That's all the time we have for today. If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to email our distro, and we'll get back to you. Thanks again.

END 3:48 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, On-the-Record Press Gaggle by White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby Previewing the G7 Summit Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/372795

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