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Press Gaggle Aboard Air Force One en route Andrews Air Force Base, August 7th, 2013

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Andrews Air Force Base

2:48 P.M. PDT

MR. CARNEY: Hey, everybody. Good afternoon. Thanks for being here aboard Air Force One as we fly east towards home. I hope you enjoyed our trip today and the visit to Camp Pendleton. I know the President did.

I have no announcements to make. I know we put out a variety of announcements today earlier in Washington, so beyond that, I’ll just take your questions. Julie.

Q Is there anything more you can tell us about the President’s decision-making process to not go to Russia? When did he make that decision? And does he plan to talk to Putin before he goes to the G20?

MR. CARNEY: On the last question, I’m not aware of any calls scheduled or conversation scheduled. As you know, there is a meeting scheduled for Friday, a two-plus-two, foreign and defense ministers, and I think that that represents the fact that we continue to have issues of importance to discuss with the Russians, and we will certainly do that.

The President, like his whole national security team, wanted the Moscow summit decision to be made on the merits, and we looked at the utility of the summit in light of a number of issues and a number of challenges that we’ve encountered and decided that it did not make sense to have that bilateral summit in Moscow in September.

Q — the final decision, though, to scrap the summit?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a time and an hour, but we announced it reasonably soon after the decision was made.

Q Would you say that the reset with Russia is now over?

MR. CARNEY: I would say that we have important relations with the Russians. We engage with them on a variety of matters and we have been able over the years to cooperate and find new cooperation with the Russians as part of the so-called reset approach. And some of that cooperation continues and is important, including the supply of our troops in Afghanistan as well as cooperation in other areas, as you know.

So there’s no question that we’ve encountered some challenges in our relations with Russia more recently, but it also should not be viewed entirely in a black-and-white fashion. Even several years ago, as we were making progress in our relationship with Russia in some areas, we continued to have disagreements with them on missile defense and other matters.

So that has always been the case and we’ve managed to continue to engage in this important relationship because it’s in the best interests of the United States. So we will do that.

Q As you were debating whether or not to have the summit did the pros of having a one-on-one, face-to-face meeting to talk about Edward Snowden weigh in at all? Do you see any — obviously that’s not what you decided, but wouldn’t that have also been perhaps worth having an Obama-Putin discussion on?

MR. CARNEY: Well, the President and President Putin did speak by phone, as we have previously discussed, and Mr. Snowden was one topic of discussion among several others — or many others. There’s no question that the Russians clearly understood our perspective.

There was not another argument to be made about our view that there was ample legal justification for Mr. Snowden to be returned to the United States to face the charges brought against him as a defendant afforded all the protections and rights of defendants in this country. The arguments that we made or the points we made in public were very much the points we made in private, and not just at the presidential level, but at a variety of levels, including senior law enforcement channels as well as at the Foreign Minister level or Secretary of State level.

So I think that that discussion was had. Russia made a decision that was disappointing. But the judgment was made that for a variety of reasons, this was not an optimum time to have a summit.

Q Is there a concern that this could escalate into leading to trouble for some of the cooperative efforts that the U.S. and Russia are engaged in?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t necessarily see that. Again, we are continuing to meet and have discussions with our Russian counterparts. We have a host of issues that we need to engage on between us and we’ll continue to do that. And I think I pointed out that even when we’ve made progress in some areas in our relations with Russia we have continued to encounter disagreement in other areas, and I expect that will be the case going forward.

Q Should we expect any other ways that the administration and the President will express their disappointment and frustration?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any expectation of that.

Q I may have missed something just because we’ve been in the air, but have you heard from the Russians since this announcement was made?

MR. CARNEY: Well, the President hasn’t had any discussions. I’m sure the State Department and maybe the Defense Department, because as they’re setting up additional meetings or another meeting, might have had conversations with the Russians. But I would refer you to them.

Q So the Friday meeting is a wide-ranging meeting; it would deal with Snowden, but a variety of other issues?

MR. CARNEY: Not necessarily. I think — it’s not a meeting about Snowden. I would refer you to State and Defense for more detail about the two-and-two. These are — again, we have a broad range of significant matters that we regularly engage with the Russians on, and these kinds of meetings focus on that broad range of issues.

Q So the President won’t be going to Moscow, but you did announce that Sweden is now on the itinerary. Can you just tell us a little bit about how that decision was made, why Sweden?

MR. CARNEY: I really don’t have a lot of detail on that. Obviously Sweden is an important country and a key partner in many areas, and we look forward to that meeting. We’ll have more details about the visit in the days ahead, and I know the President looks forward to making the trip.

Q Was the Sweden visit even under consideration before the decision to scrap the summit was made?

MR. CARNEY: I believe that a visit to Sweden has been under consideration for some time, yes.

Q Jay, can I just clarify something last night? In the interview, the President said that he thought that Putin was the head of the KGB. Is that the President’s impression, that Putin was once headed up the KGB?

MR. CARNEY: Obviously President Putin had a long and senior career in intelligence, which is well known. As I recall, and you can check my facts, he was head in the Leningrad region — perhaps not head of the overall organization. But I think the point the President was making is that President Putin did spend quite a bit of his formative years in the KGB.

Q But the idea — the President wasn’t suggesting that he’d led the KGB?

MR. CARNEY: No, I believe he was making the point that President Putin spent a long time in his formative years in the KGB.

Q Officials in Yemen today claimed that they’ve broken up some kind of large al Qaeda plot. One, has the administration been briefed on what the Yemenis are saying? And then, two, is that plot that they’re talking about the same as the threat that has led to the embassy closures?

MR. CARNEY: On the issue of the threat, I have no updates and am not aware of any new information that would lead us to change our approach in terms of the precautions we are taking as a result of that threat and in reaction to it. On the other matter, we work, as we’ve said in the past, cooperatively with Yemen on counterterrorism and welcome any successes in that effort. But I don’t have details on the announcement that you mentioned. Perhaps the Defense or State Department will have more. I just don’t.

Q Can you say whether what they are talking about is the same as what has led to the closures?

MR. CARNEY: All I can say is that it’s my understanding that we have not made any changes in the steps we’ve taken in reaction to the threat that we’ve been discussing these last several days.

Q Thank you.

MR. CARNEY: Thanks.

2:59 P.M. PDT

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