White House walks back Biden's Russia cybercriminal swap comments

Uncle Joe either flubbed it again, or is cool with extraditing U.S. citizens for cyberattacks against Russia in exchange for the same on their end.

US President Joe Biden listens on at the start of a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the Nor...

President Joe Biden reportedly gave an impressively off-the-cuff response to a reporter’s question at the G7 summit’s conclusion over the weekend. When asked yesterday about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent offer to swap respective countries’ cybercriminals, Uncle Joe said he was “open” to the idea, stating “if there’s crimes committed against Russia... and the people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States, I’m committed to holding them accountable.” He also added that he thought Putin’s suggestion was “potentially a good sign and progress” between the two nations.

Learning of what at least sounds like Biden’s tacit approval of extraditing U.S. citizens over to Russia as part of some kind of prisoner swap scenario, the White House quickly entered damage control mode. “This is not about exchanges or swaps, or anything like that,” White House national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told a press pool later that day, stating earlier that Biden was apparently speaking on “accountability, and the idea that responsible countries should be held accountable to not harboring cybercriminals... [Biden is] prepared to do that... he’d like to see Vladimir Putin do that.”

Okay, so it’s no “start a nuclear war with North Korea via thinly-veiled dick-measuring tweet,” but it’s a pretty impressive verbal gaffe from a politician with no shortage of past verbal gaffes.

Totally the guy you want to get ahold of U.S. citizens.Maxim Blinov/TASS/Getty Images

Don’t expect Russia to crack down on cybercrime anytime soon — Seeing as how the United States’ largest fuel pipeline was completely shut down thanks to a ransomware attack by a Russian hacking group just last month, it’s probably pretty safe to say Putin is totally fine with cyberattacks by Russian nationals on American companies and infrastructure. Darkside, the collective claiming responsibility for May’s attack, claims apolitical motives — which is probably true, in all honesty.

But any headache for Americans is a big win for Putin and his cronies, so we seriously doubt he’s inclined to hold anybody accountable for these kinds of events. Likewise, we’re sure Biden’s camp is totally fine with the reverse scenario... so we should probably just chalk all this up to a game of PR chess. Unfortunately, a completely unnecessary checkmate just went to Putin.