May 30, 2024

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Remarks by President Biden in a Press Conference

Remarks by President Biden in a Press Conference
Remarks by President Biden in a Press Conference

Hilton HiroshimaHiroshima, Japan 6:57 P.M. JST THE PRESIDENT:  Please have a seat.  I don’t think there’s enough press here.  (Laughs.) Well, good evening, everyone.  Before turning to the important work we accomplished here at the G7, I want to take a few minutes addressing the budget negotiations that I’m heading back home to — to […]

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Hilton Hiroshima
Hiroshima, Japan

6:57 P.M. JST

THE PRESIDENT:  Please have a seat.  I don’t think there’s enough press here.  (Laughs.)

Well, good evening, everyone.  Before turning to the important work we accomplished here at the G7, I want to take a few minutes addressing the budget negotiations that I’m heading back home to — to deal with.

Before I left for this trip, I met with all four congressional leaders, and we agreed the only way to move forward was on a bipartisan agreement.

And we’ve — I’ve done my part.  We put forward a proposal that cuts spending by more than a trillion dollars, and on top of the nearly $3 trillion in deficit reduction that I previously proposed through the combination of spending cuts and new revenues.

Now it’s time for the other side to move their — from their extreme positions, because much of what they’ve already proposed is simply, quite frankly, unacceptable.

And so, let me be clear: I’m not going to agree to a deal that protects, for example, a $30 billion tax break for the oil industry, which made $200 billion last year — they don’t need an incentive of another $30 billion — while putting healthcare of 21 million Americans at risk by going after Medicaid.

I’m not going to agree to a deal that protects $200 billion in excess payments for pharmaceutical industries and refusing to count that while cutting over 100,000 schoolteachers and — and assistants’ jobs, 30,000 law enforcement officers’ jobs cut across the — the entire United States of America.

And I’m not going to agree to a deal that protects wealthy tax cheats and crypto traders while putting food assistance at risk for nearly a hundred — excuse me — nearly 1 million Americans.

And it’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely — solely on their partisan terms.  They have to move as well.

All four congressional leaders agree with me that de- — that default is not — let me say it again — default is not an option.  And I expect each of the — I expect each of these leaders — excuse me — to live up to that commitment.

America has never defaulted — never defaulted on our debt, and it never will.

The Speaker and I will be talking later on the plane as we head back, because it’s — what — five or six, seven o’clock in the morning there.  And our teams are going to continue working.

Now, we’ve had a — we’ve had a packed few days here at Hiroshima and, I think, with very productive and important meetings at the G7 Summit.

We also held the Quad meeting here in Hiroshima, rather than Australia, and important bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Kishida of Japan, Prime Minister Albanese of Australia, and President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, as well as the Prime Minister of India. 

This is my third trip to the Indo-Pacific as President, and I look forward to rescheduling my stops in Papua New Guinea and Australia later.

I’ve spoken with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, and Secretary Blinken is traveling there to meet with the Pacific Island partners at that moment.

And I’m also going to be hosting — and I’ve spoken with the Prime Minister — hosting the leaders of the Pacific Island Forum in Washington this fall, because I was unable to make it to Papua New Guinea. 

And Prime Minister Albanese — we’re going to have a state visit later this year. 

And I also want to thank President [Prime Minister] Kishida for his outstanding — and I’m not — it’s not hyperbole — his outstanding leadership of the G7 this year, as well as Mrs. Kishida and the entire Japanese government for the hospitality they’ve shown to Jill and myself and our whole team.

Being in this city and visiting the memorial on Friday

was a powerful reminder of the devastating reality of nuclear war and our shared responsibility to never cease our efforts to build for peace.

And together with the leaders of the G7, we have reit- — we have reiterated our commitment to continuing to work toward a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons.

Over the past few days have showcased the unity — the unity of purpose among the G7.  It’s a very different organization that it was 5, 7, 10 years ago, because we’re addressing the challenges that matter most to the world.

We’re united in our efforts to strengthen global health security, and yesterday I announced that the United States plans to contribute another $250 million to the Pandemic Fund

at the World Bank to make sure the world is better prepared

to prevent, detect, and respond to future pandemics.

We’re united in our commitment to climate action and accelerating the transition to a global clean energy economy

by investing in the industries of the future. 

We’re united in our push to build a more resilient and inclusive global economy that can better withstand the kinds of shocks that we’ve experienced over the last few years, including by building a more secure and more diversified supply chain.

Through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which we launched last year at the G7 Summit in Germany, we’ve addressed the infrastructure needs that are holding back too many low- and moderate-income countries, particularly in the Global South.

The United States has already mobilized more than $30 billion in PGII projects around the globe, a significant step toward our — our collective pledge of the G7 to mobilize $600 billion in investment by 2027.

And we resolved to reform the multilateral development banks to give them more flexibility and better able fight poverty by helping respond to global challenges.

Now, we’re also united in our approach to the People’s Republic of China, and the joint statement released yesterday outlines the shared principles we’ve all agreed at the G7 and beyond in dealing with China.

We’re not looking to decouple from China, we’re looking to de-risk and diversify our relationship with China. 

That means taking steps to diversify our supply chains, and we’re not — so we’re not dependent on any one country for necessary product.  It means resisting economic coercion together and countering harmful practices that hurt our workers.  It means protecting a narrow set of advanced technologies critical for our national security.

And those elements are all agreed on by the G7.

Finally, joined here in Hiroshima by President Zelenskyy, the G7 reaffirmed our shared and unwavering — let me say it again — our shared and unwavering commitment to stand with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal war of aggression and the war crimes being committed.

Together with our partner countries, we reiterated a need for a just peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, both core principles of the U.N. Charter.

Russia started this war, and Russia could end it today by withdrawing its troops from Ukraine internationally recognized borders and ceasing its assault.

Until then — excuse me — the ability — Ukraine’s ability to defend itself is essential to being able to end this war permanently and through diplomacy.  

You know, and this morning, I once more shared and assured President Zelenskyy, together with all G7 members and our allies and partners around the world, that we will not waver.  Putin will not break our resolve, as he thought he could two years ago — almost three years ago.

We’re going to continue to provide economic, humanitarian, and security assistance to Ukraine so it can stand strong as long as it needs it.

And today, the United States announced our latest tranche of artillery, ammunition, anti-tank weapons, and bridging equipment to help Ukraine succeed in the battlefield.

You know, in my private meeting with President Zelenskyy after the G7 meeting and his with staff, I told — the United States, together with our allies and partners, is going to begin training Ukrainian pilots in fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s, to strengthen Ukraine’s air force as part of a long-term commitment to Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. 

We provided, the last year, all that they needed to deal with what they were dealing with at the moment, and that’s what — and now we’re moving in the direction of putting them in a position to be able to be — defend themselves in ways beyond what they’ve had to deal with so far.

The past few days have once more underscored how important America’s global leadership is.  A presumptuous thing for an American President to say, but I think you’ll find, if you ask if any of our colleagues, it’s true.

The security and prosperity of the American people are substantially increased by working in concert with our closest allies and partners to build a future of greater economic strength and resilience and a world that is more peaceful and stable.

And on many of the issues that matter to the American people — accelerating our clean energy transition, preventing another pandemic, dealing with China, standing up for Ukraine — the meetings I’ve had with my fellow G7 leaders have left us more united, more resolved, and more determined to set up for the greater progress in the months ahead. 

And this has been an extremely significant and important summit.

With that, I’m going to take some questions.  And Trevor, of Reuters.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You spoke a moment ago about what you won’t do in terms of your negotiations with Republicans.  But I’m interested in what you’ve signaled you already might do.  In particular, by conceding in these negotiations to some form of cap or freezing spending, are you concerned that Mr. McCarthy has already forced you into accepting a policy position that could tip this economy into a recession?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I don’t believe that’s the case at all.  As a matter of fact, I think that we can reach an agreement.  As I’ve told you — and you may be aware or you’ve seen it — we have provided for a proposal that would cut a trillion dollars off the baseline spent from the year before by just agreeing to deal with what was initially offered.

And secondly, we’re in a situation where the — let me put it this way: If you all were doing your budget at home, and you said, “Okay, we have to make some cuts,” would you only look at the spending or would you also look at your income — what was coming in the door — to determine what you could afford?

And so part of what I’ve been arguing from the beginning is a need to consider the tax structure as well as — as well as cutting spending.  I’m willing to cut spending, and I proposed cuts in spending of over a trillion dollars. 

But I believe we have to also look at the tax revenues.  The idea that the — my Republican colleagues want to continue the $2 trillion tax cut that had profound negative impacts on the economy from the Trump administration.  The fact that they are — we’ve provided for the number of — we got a lot of input from serious economists and former administration officials in both parties that we need more people who are qualified to be able to look at the tax returns of the thousand billionaires in America — very complicated stuff.

It’s estimated that if we had the appropriate number of tax — tax personnel, that we would save somewhere between — we would generate somewhere between $200 billion and $400 billion in tax revenue. 

And there’s a lot of other — for example, the idea that we’re — in terms of taxes — that they refuse to — for example, we — I was able to balance the budget and pass everything from the global warming bill —

Anyway, I was able to cut, by $1.7 billion [trillion] in the first two years, the deficit that we were — were accumulating.

And — because I was able to say too that the 55 corporations in America that made forty- — $400 billion — or $40 billion — $400 billion — that they — they pay zero in tax.  Zero.  And so we said, “You got to pay a minimum of 15 percent tax.”  What a horrible thing.  You’re paying more than 15 percent in taxes, every one of you out there.

And so, guess what?  We not only balanced the budget; we were able to reduce the deficit by $1.7 billion [trillion]. 

So there’s a lot of things that they refuse to look at in terms of tax generation as well as what kind of people we’re going to increase taxes for. 

And like I said, we’re now down to — we went from somewhere — roughly 740 billionaires to about 1,000 billionaires in America.  They’re paying an average tax rate of 8 percent.  Raise your hand if you want to pay 8 percent only.  I think you’d all be ready to do that.

So my point is that there’s a lot of things that they refuse to entertain, and they just said revenue is off the table.  Well, revenue is not off the table.  And so, that’s what I contin- — we continue to have a significant disagreement on, on the revenue side.

Q    But you don’t think the spending cuts themselves will cause a recession?

THE PRESIDENT:  I know they won’t.  I know they won’t.

Matter of fact, the fact that we were able to cut government spending by $1.7 trillion, that didn’t cause a recession; that caused growth. 

Look, we have the lowest unemployment rate in over 50 years.  We’ve created 12-point- — I think it’s — -7 million new jobs, including 800,000 manufacturing jobs. 

We have moved in a direction where we’re rebuilding and reconstructing America through the — through the infrastructure act.

Look, here’s the other thing.  I’m sure — I’m not sure; my guess is I’ll get a question about, you know, “Well, wait a minute, you know, the American people aren’t satisfied.”  Well, guess what?  As I told you all before, most of this — what we passed — doesn’t kick in — it only kicks in over time. 

And so, the fact is, for example, that if you’re in a situation where you were — I’ll give you the one example that I’ve used — everybody understands the easiest — is insulin. 

Well, I decided that we were going to be in a position where we were not going to continue to pay the highest drug prices in the world.  And that’s what we do, by the way.  Same manufacturer of a drug in the United States, selling it here in Japan, selling it in Tokyo, or selling it in Berlin, or selling it around the world, they pay a lot less than we pay at home.

So we said a simple proposition: Let’s take a look at how much it costs to make the product.  And I’m not going to ask you to — a show of hands like I do in a town meeting, but I usually ask, “How many people know somebody who has Type 1 or Type 1 diabetes?”  And I’m almost — at least half the audience raises their hand.

Well, they were paying somewhere between $4- and $700 a month for their insulin that they badly need to stay healthy and alive.  Well, guess what?  It costs $10 — T-E-N — $10 to make.  To package, total amount, you could argue maybe as much as $13.

Well, guess what?  Now they can’t charge more for — Medicare can’t, because Medicare is paying — taking American tax dollars and paying for the elderly’s healthcare needs.  You can’t charge more than $35 for that — that drug.  That saves $160 billion.  Hear it?  A hundred and sixty billion dollars less will be paid out by the American taxpayer to help the elderly people on Medicare with a problem.

Well, a lot of this is just kicking in.  We’re in a situation where next year, for the drug costs, no senior will have to pay — total cost — total cost of all the drugs, from expensive cancer drugs to whatever drugs they’re taking, will not have to pay more than $3,500 a year.  The following year –we’ve already passed this.  This is law now.  The following year, they won’t have to pay more than $2,000.  That saves another $200 billion that we’re paying out. 

But the other team won’t count this.  Even though it’s the law — we passed it — they won’t count that as reducing the debt. 

So there’s a lot of those kinds of disagreements we have.  And my guess is that I’m going to be talking to — to the Speaker of the House on the way back on the plane, because it’ll be morning time over — at home.  And I’m going to be in that plane in about an hour or so.  And my guess is he’s going to want to deal directly with me in making sure we’re all on the same page. 

But it’s probably more than you wanted to know.

How about Masaru, NHK.

Q    Hi.  Good evening, Mr. President.  The Chinese military is more active at this time in the Taiwan Strait, with expectations this might increase leading up to Taiwan’s presidential election next January.  Despite — despite some, you know, diplomatic communication recently between the U.S. and China, the military hotline is not working.

Under this circumstance, how will you manage the diplomatic, you know, relationship with China?  And how will you strengthen the U.S. alliance with Japan and ROK in order to counter China?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, number one, you’re right — we should have an open hotline.  At the Bali conference, that’s what President Xi and I agreed we were going to do and meet on.  And then this silly balloon that was carrying two freight cars’ worth of spying equipment was flying over the United States, and it got shot down, and everything changed in terms of talking to one another.  I think you’re going to see that begin to thaw very shortly. 

But in the meantime, what’s happened is: I think it’s fair to say, for those of you who have dealt with — dealt with the Japanese government and reported from here for a long time, the situation in terms of our relations with Japan have never, ever, ever in American history been stronger.  Never.  Never. 

And we started this relationship when I came to see — some of you were with me on my first trip here — when I came to see President K- — President [Prime Minister] Kishida’s predecessor and made the case that what was happening in Europe was the sma- — the world is getting smaller. 

What’s happening in Europe and the invasion of Ukraine is it affects everyone, including people here in the Pacific basin.  And so we’ve ended up where you have Japan stepping up in a way that’s of real consequence, in terms of your defense budget, number one, and a beginning of a rapprochement with South Korea. 

I’ve spoken at length with President Loon [Yoon] of South Korea.  He came to Washington of late.  He’s agreed — we’re all of the same agreement that, in fact, we are not going to — we’re maintaining — we all agree we’re going to maintain the One China policy, which says — everybody kind of forgets — I mean, you all know it, but the public kind of forgets that it says that neither country, Japan — I mean, China or Taiwan — neither er- — territory can independently declare what they’re going to do.  Period.  There has to be a mutually agreed to outcome.

And so we’re — we’re sticking by that.  We’re not going to tell China what they can do.  We ma- — we made it clear that we don’t expect — we don’t expect Taiwan to independently declare independence either. 

But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to put Taiwan in a position that they can defend themselves.  And there is clear understanding among most of our allies that, in fact, if China were to act unilaterally, there would be a response.  There would be a response. 

But I — so I don’t think there’s anything inevitable about the notion that there’s going to be this conflict between the United States and the West and/or Japan and Korea and the Quad.

And if you take a look at what’s happened, we are more secure, with all the talk about China’s building its military — it is building its military, and that’s why I’ve made it clear that I am not going to prepare — I’m not prepared to trade certain items with China. 

And when I was asked by President Xi why, I said, “Because you’re using them to build nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and I’m not going to do it.”  And we’ve now got commitment from all of our allies they’re not going to either provide that kind of material that allows them to do that. 

But that’s not a hostile act.  That’s an act that says we’re going to make sure that we do everything we can to maintain the status quo ante. 

And what’s going on now is the — look at the meeting we had here today — today and yesterday of the Quad.

I bet you — I would — maybe some of you thought it, but I doubt many people in this audience or any other audience would have said that two years after being elected, I’d be able to convince India, Australia, Japan, and the United States to form an organization called the Quad to maintain stability in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. 

Well, when asked by the Prime Minister — by President Xi why we’re doing that, I said, “Simple: We have — international organizations have agreed upon what constitutes open airspace and sea space.  And we’re not going to allow that to be unilaterally altered.  Period.”  We’re not changing any rules, we’re just making sure that we unite democracies in the conviction that the Pacific basin remains what it was before: open and clear.

So I guess what I’m saying is — I don’t “guess” what I’m saying — what I’m trying to say is I think we’re more united than we’ve ever been — ever been in the Pacific, in terms of maintaining stability and — and maintaining a sense of security. 

So I’m not sure that answers your question, but I hope it does.  If it doesn’t, you want to follow up with any portion of that question?

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, how about — if you don’t want to follow up, how about Annmarie of Bloomberg TV and Radio?

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You just said, “I’m willing to cut spending.”  Speaker McCarthy says that the U.S. government needs to spend less next year than they did this year.  So will you agree to that?

And on China, your team has been trying to secure meetings with their Chinese counterparts.  Would you consider easing some sanctions to improve relations, like the sanctions that are currently on China’s defense minister?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes and no.  No, I’m not going to ease the sanctions.  But, yes, I think we should — on the front end of your question is that we — there’s a lot that is going on relative to spending.  And we have agreed to cut spending.  We’ve cut spending, and we’re going to continue to cut spending.

But the question is: What base do you start from?  Initially, if you remember, when the Republicans introduced their — when the Speaker, by, I guess, a four- or five-vote majority, was able to pass his — what he calls — extending the debt with a limitation on how — what you had to do to extend it, in terms of the budget side. 

I said, I’m not going to negotiate on whether to extend the debt.  I will negotiate on a budget.

On the budget side of the equation, they came along and said, initially — it was hard to determine where they are, quite frankly; and, I don’t know, you all may know more from questioning them than I do.  But they just came along and said, “We’re going to move off of the 2023 budget, and that’s the baseline we’re going to use for the next two years — that budget.”  And I said, “Well, what about what you all just voted on after the budget, which was the add-on money that you all agreed to and the House and Senate voted for?”  And they said, “Well, that includes that as well.”

I said, “Okay, well, then we may be able to work on something.”  So we started calculating what that would mean, in terms of — it came to a 22 percent cut for everything in the budget but the things that have already been passed — the five big initiatives that I’ve already passed, in terms of infrastructure, the — the Affordable Care Act, et cetera.

But in the meantime, what happened is that — that seems to be changing.  They said, “Well, we’re going to exempt…” — remember we said that, well, you’re going to cut veterans because twenty- — (inaudible) said everything — that’s discretionary budget.  They said, “No, we’re not going to cut veterans.”  Okay, that’s good. 

And we — initially, when they started off, they were going to cut Medicare and Medicaid.  They said, “Whoa, whoa, no.”  I mean, not Medicaid; Social Security and Medicare.  They said, “No, no, no, no.”  The first time I ever had a negotiation in the State of the Union message. 

But they said, “No, we’re not going to cut that.”  Okay, well, that’s off — off the — off the radar.  “What else is off the radar?”  And they named some other things.  And I said, “Well, that means if you want to get the number you wanted from freezing the budget at 2023, plus the additions you added, then it means you’re going to go from 22 percent — you’re going to end up cutting 30 percent or 35 percent discretionary budget.”

For example, if you calculate what they’re talking about, you’re going to lose — they’re going to lose 100,000 teachers and assistants.  They’re going to lose thousands of police officers across the board.  I mean, just calculate what it means if you take all discretionary spending and you make no distinctions other than what the percentage number of the cut is.  And some of it makes absolutely no sense at all.

And so what we’ve done is: We’re going to have to sit down — and I’m hoping that — that Speaker McCarthy is just waiting to negotiate with me when I get home, which has been — I don’t know whether that’s true or not; we’ll find out. 

But at first, we weren’t making progress.  Then we made a lot of progress.  And then, all of a sudden, they came back with a proposal that was very cut back from where they had agreed or discussed.  And now I don’t know where we — we gave a counter-proposal to the counter again — and I know this sounds ridiculous, but that’s what we did — and I’m waiting to hear the response to what we have offered.

We are willing to cut spending, as well as raise revenue, so people start paying their fair share. 

Again, if this were a town meeting, I’d ask, “Raise your hand if you think the tax structure is fair — remotely fair.  What do you think?”

Anyway.  So that’s the context.

Q    And on China, you will not lift sanctions on China’s defense minister?  Because Lloyd Austin was trying to meet with him, but he’s currently sanctioned by the U.S. government.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I know that.  That’s under negotiation right now. 

I thought you said would I lift sanctions on material I was going to send — sell their defense department, meaning would I sell some — the answer to that is under discussion.

Jim Tankersley, New York Times.

Q    Hi.  Mr. President, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh.

Q    You speak a lot at these summits about the power of democracies to solve big problems.  But I’m curious, in these meetings with world leaders, how are you explaining the possibility that American democracy could cause a global financial crisis if the debt limit is breached next month?  And I’m wondering if you are offering them assurances that, whether it’s by invoking the 14th Amendment or anything else, you will take whatever steps you need to make sure that doesn’t happen.

THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, it would be a very serious circumstance if we didn’t pay our debt for the first time in 230 years.  That would be a serious problem.

So far, there’s been very little discussion — and they all know what’s going on — about whether or not we’re going to default on our debt.  Number — no, number two.

Number three, I can’t guarantee that they wouldn’t force a default by doing something outrageous.  I can’t guarantee that.

Number four, I’m looking at the 14th Amendment, as to whether or not we have the authority.  I think we have the authority.  The question is: Could it be done and invoked in time that it could not — would not be appealed and, as a consequence, pass the date in question and still default on the debt.  That’s a question that I think is unresolved.

And so, the point is: I think — I’m hoping and I believe that when we stood in that — when we sat in the room with all the leaders, from Mitch McConnell on, and they said, “We will not default.  Period.  We will not default.”  That’s what all, including Kevin McCarthy, said.  “We will not default.”

And so, I’m assuming that we mean what we say, and we’ll figure out a way to not have to default.

Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  This is the last question, sir.

Q    Good afternoon —

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey.

Q    — Mr. President.  What has President Zelenskyy told you about the big counteroffensive?  And maybe you can start by telling us whether it’s actually underway or not. 

And also, I’d like to ask you about the F-16s.  You’ve greenlit them now.  Jake Sullivan said arms and equipment go to Ukraine according to what he called the “exigencies of the conflict.”  So what exigency now exists that didn’t exist that demands these planes?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll tell you exactly when they’re going to move, exactly where they’re going to go.  He told me — (laughs) — come on.  God love ya.  I’m going to — even if I knew precisely, you think I’m going to tell you what they’re going to do in terms of their offensive?

Q    We (inaudible) hope.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I hope you hope I wouldn’t do that, because that would mean it wouldn’t succeed.

But the fact is that we did discuss privately with — with Zelen- — I did discuss with Zelenskyy how — let me put it this way: We and our NATO Allies know how many brigades they have trained, know what the status of those brigades are, and have an expectation as to what their likelihood of succeeding are. 

We don’t know that for certain.  War is uncertain.  War is uncertain, to state the obvious.  So, and my — it will proceed.  I can’t — if — even if I — I think I do know, but I’m not going to tell you because that would not be a smart thing to do either.

So, having said that, the expectation and hope is that they will be successful in that it’ll make it clear to Russia that the cost — for example, Bakhmut: Bakhmut is a discussion about whether or not it’s been lost or whatever.  And, well, the truth of the matter is the Russians have suffered over 100,000 casualties in Bakhmut.  That’s hard to make up.  That’s hard to make up.

So, whether or not there is — there are troops in Bakhmut occupying — there’s not many buildings left standing in Bakhmut.  It’s a pretty devastated city.  But they have been able to move in a direction that they’ve been able to lock down an awful lot of the Russian forces, including the Wagner Group.

So, with regard to the F-16s, F-16s would not have helped in that regard at all.  It was unnecessary.  For example — let’s take just Bakhmut, for example — would not have any — any additional added consequence. 

But what’s happened is: Since the provi- — the provision of everything from the significant missile defense systems, tanks, sophisticated tanks and the like — all the things that were of consequence in the near term in the Donbas area and where the fighting was taking place — they now have all that equipment.  There’s a little bit still coming, but they have all that equipment.

What’s going to happen, though, is if they continue to do well, they’re going to be in a situation where you’re going to have the Russians being able to stand off at a greater distance for maintaining their headquarters and other things, which are out of range of certain — of the existing capacity they have.  And they have to be able to be in a position where now those fighter jets, those F-16s, make a big difference in terms of being able to deal with what is coming down the road. 

And God willing — and we don’t know this — if they’re successful and there ends up being an accommodation where there is not a ceasefire but there is a peace agreement that gets worked out, that they’ll have the capacity to have confidence in their ability to resist response by the Russians if they were to change their position. 

So that’s the essence of the difference.  Was there another part of the question?

Q    No, but I have one.  And that is: You do expect these F-16s to take part in this conflict?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  Not the per- — I don’t expect the F-16s to take part in the existing — let’s assume that it’s not, but let’s assume tomorrow the offensive was starting — or in a week, or two, or five, or seven, or ten.  It’s not — highly unlikely they would take place in that context. 

But it will take place in the context — if they’re successful in the near term, they’re going to then continue to have to fight with the Russians, who have — have headquarters beyond where they are now a- — not able to be reached by the existing capacity that exists in their arsenal.  So it’s a different need, just like the tanks weren’t needed in the beginning, but they’re needed now.  And so, that’s — that’s the nature of the change.

Q    Mr. President, what assurances — what assurances do you — what assurances do you have that providing F-16s won’t escalate this war?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have a flat assurance from the — from Zelenskyy that they will not — they will not use it to go on and move into Russian geographic territory.  But wherever Russian troops are within Ukraine in the area, they would be able to do that. 

Thank you all very, very much.  Appreciate it.

Q    Mr. President, one more on the —

Q    How do you respond to the Kremlin calling this a “colossal risk,” Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is for them.

Q    And, Mr. President, on the debt limit, you said already, “I’ve done…”

Q    Can you speak to your experience —

Q    “I’ve done my part.”  Do you think that if there is a breach, nobody is going to blame you?

THE PRESIDENT:  Of course no one would blame me.  I know you won’t.  You’ll be saying, “Biden did a wonderful job.”  (Laughter.)  I — I know you.

Q    I’m asking: Would you be blameless in a default situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the merits based on what I’ve offered, I would be blameless.  On the politics of it, no one would be blameless.  And, by the way, that’s one of the — that’s one of the things that some are — are contemplating. 

I actually had — well, I got to be careful here.  I think there are some MAGA Republicans in the House who know the damage that it would do to the economy.  And because I am President, and presidents are responsible for everything, Biden would take the blame.  And that’s the one way to make sure Biden is not reelected. 

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, everybody.

Q    Mr. President, are you still weighing the 14th Amendment, or have you taken those options off the table?

Q    How would you respond to criticism that your actions and the G7 would lead to more —

Q    Sir, is a congressional deal —

Q    — instability and division in the world?

Q    — the only option here, or are you still weighing other unilateral or executive actions?

THE PRESIDENT:  We have not come up with a unilateral action that could succeed in a matter of two weeks or three weeks.  That’s the issue.

Q    So it’s up to lawmakers?

THE PRESIDENT:  So it’s up to lawmakers.  But my hope and intention is: When we resolve this problem, I’d find a rationale to take it to the courts to see whether or not the 14th Amendment is, in fact, something that would be able to stop it.

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, the press conference has concluded.  Thanks, everybody.  Thank you, everyone.

7:36 P.M. JST

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/05/21/remarks-by-president-biden-in-a-press-conference/

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