Biden says China and Russia skipping summit will diminish their influence

Biden says China and Russia skipping summit will diminish their influence
© President Biden Image credit: The Associated Press/Evan Vucci

President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE on Tuesday chided China and Russia for not participating in person at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, and argued that it would weaken their global influence.

“I think it’s been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China,” Biden told reporters during a news conference Tuesday before departing the summit after two days of meetings.

“The rest of the world is going to look to China and say, what value added are they providing? And they’ve lost an ability to influence people around the world and all the people here at COP,” Biden said, referring to the climate conference, COP26. “The same way, I would argue, with regard to Russia.”

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Later, Biden suggested that the China’s lack of participation would damage Chinese President Xi Jinping’s effort to expand his influence.

“The fact that China trying to assert understandably a new role in the world as a world leader, not showing up? Come on. The single most important thing that’s gotten the attention of the world is climate, everywhere,” Biden said. “It just is a gigantic issue, and they’ve walked away. How do you do that and claim to have any leadership mantel?”

“His tundra is burning,” Biden then said of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense & National Security — Quick vote on defense bill blocked again Kremlin claims Ukraine may try to win back rebel-controlled regions by force Blinken threatens coordinated sanctions on Russia over Ukraine MORE. “Literally, the tundra is burning. He has serious, serious climate problems, and he is mum on willingness to do anything.” 

Both Xi and Putin declined to attend the summit, citing the coronavirus pandemic. Putin addressed the conference with a prerecorded video message on Tuesday ahead of a meeting on limiting deforestation, while Xi addressed the summit only in a written statement.

Throughout his two days at the summit, Biden tried to both reassert U.S. leadership on climate change and demand collective global action to address the threat, arguing that nations have a small window to act and that the next decade would be decisive. 

“We showed up. We showed up. And by showing up we’ve had a profound impact on the way I think the rest of the world is looking at the United States in this leadership role,” Biden said during the news conference. 

He tried to assuage skeptical world leaders of America’s reliability after four years during which former President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE minimized the threat of climate change and withdrew from the landmark Paris agreement. Biden rejoined that agreement upon taking office, a move he highlighted during his meetings.

Biden used the news conference Tuesday to tick through what he described as major accomplishments of the summit. He touted new rules on methane announced by his administration and a pledge by dozens of nations to curb methane emissions.

“I can’t think of any two days when more has been accomplished dealing with climate than these two days,” Biden said.