- The Washington Times
Sunday, June 20, 2021

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is defending President Biden’s response to Russian cyber aggression against claims that the president was not forceful enough at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Amid a flood of cyberattacks and hacks linked to Russia, Mr. Biden met with the Russian leader last week and gave him a list of 16 U.S. critical infrastructure sectors that should be off-limits to cyberattacks.

“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked Mr. Sullivan why Mr. Biden limited the number of unacceptable cyberattack targets instead of threatening to impose consequences for any more cyberattacks.

Mr. Sullivan argued Mr. Biden “pulled no punches” and stood up for American values in an “emphatic and sound” manner.

“Privately in the room, President Biden communicated to President Putin that there would be costs and consequences if harmful activities against the United States continued,” Mr. Sullivan said on Fox. “Publicly, in his press conference, he not only spokes out about that quite directly, mincing no words, but he also spoke about American values, something the last president never talked about.”

Republicans have countered that Mr. Biden’s approach showed weakness in his willingness to identify a set number of specific targets as off-limits.

“I mean, it’s not even complicated, the weakness that projects,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program last week. “And what do you think Putin thinks as, you know, Biden totters over there to hand him that list? Any new president is tested. And he’s tested by our enemies, and even to some extent, he’s tested by our friends. And right now … Biden is failing those tests over and over again.”

In defending Mr. Biden’s approach, Mr. Sullivan on Sunday sought to draw a contrast with former President Donald Trump and portray Mr. Biden as a more effective leader on the international stage than his predecessor.

He entered and exited this summit in Geneva as the leader of the free world, a mantle that Donald Trump had given away and that Joe Biden reclaimed on behalf of this country flanked by allies, supported by democratic partners, and then willing to push back hard on Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Sullivan said on Fox. 

While Mr. Sullivan emphasized Mr. Biden as an aggressive counterpart to Mr. Putin on Fox, he cast Mr. Biden as willing to work together with Mr. Putin in remarks on ABC.

“President Biden’s been pretty clear from the outset that he wants to be able to have a space, to be able to engage directly, privately, candidly with President Putin and then to determine whether the actions that Russia takes in the months ahead match up with the discussions that took place in Geneva,” Mr. Sullivan said on ABC’s “This Week.” “That is where we will turn our focus at this point and our goal, at the end of the day, is a stable, predictable relationship where we’re not going to be friends by any stretch of the imagination but where we can reduce the risk of escalation that would ultimately harm America’s interests.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.