Joe Biden gave Vladimir Putin a list of 16 sites in the United State not to target with cyber attacks and told the Russian president there would be major consequences if he did.
At their face-to-face summit in Geneva the US president also told the Russian leader that if the imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies it would be "devastating" for Russia.
Mr Biden said: "I did what I came to do. Certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to [cyber] attack. I gave them a list. Sixteen specific entities defined as critical infrastructure, including energy and water systems. He knows I will take action. He knows there are consequences."
Low expectations going in
Expectations for the meeting at a mansion tucked in a leafy park in Geneva were as low as they could be with both parties saying from the start there simply is no trust to mend the ties.
Mr Putin, who is known to be notoriously late, unusually arrived at the venue ten minutes ahead of schedule. However, the summit lasted less time than had been expected.
There were some positive developments as the two leaders agreed to restore their respective ambassadors.
They also agreed to begin negotiations on replacing their last remaining nuclear weapons agreement, which runs out in 2026, to achieve "strategic stability."
And there were also discussions of a potential prisoner swap.
Mr Biden said: "I think the last thing he [Mr Putin] wants now is a new Cold War."
But he added: "This is not a kumbaya moment, let’s hug and love each other. It doesn’t mean he’s ready to lay down his arms. I think he’s still concerned about being encircled, that we are looking to take him down."
Mr Biden said the meeting had been "constructive" and Mr Putin offered to "help" on the issues of Afghanistan and Iran.
He added: "This is not about trust, this is about self-interest."
Refusal to admit responsibility for cyber attacks
Mr Putin refused to admit responsibility for cyber attacks, which have recently taken down a major US pipeline and a major meat producing company.
He also refused to call Mr Navalny by his name, instead referring to him as “this citizen” who was rightfully jailed due to repeated parole violations.
"He wanted to be arrested,” Mr Putin said of Mr Navalny’s return to Moscow in January.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after his meeting with U.S President Joe Biden
Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko
The Russian president appeared pleased in his own press conference after the summit.
He said: "It seemed to me we speak the same language. It certainly doesn’t mean we must looks into each others eyes and find a soul, or swear eternal friendship, but essentially our talks were pragmatic.
"There was no hostility. Both sides have shown willingness to understand each other and seek ways to bring our stances closer.’
Mr Biden gifted Mr Putin a pair of Aviator sunglasses, as worn by Us and Nato pilots.
I was a nod to a recent TIME magazine cover showing Mr Putin reflected in Mr Biden’s Aviators.
Human rights abuses and Americans in Russian custody
Mr Putin called Mr Biden "a very experienced and constructive person” and added that there are very few leaders who could sustain a two-hour conversation with him, as Mr Biden did.
The Russian leader ended his press conference by saying: "There is no happiness in life, only glimmers of it. I think that in this situation, there can’t be any kind of family trust. But I think we’ve seen some glimmers shine through."
The Russian president said that Mr Biden raised the issue of Americans in Russian custody. He didn’t name them but it is likely that this concerns Paul Whelan, a former US marine convicted of spying, and Trevor Reed, a former student, who was found guilty of assaulting a Moscow policeman.
"There might be compromise solutions there," he said, adding that the Russian foreign ministry and the US State Department will "work in that direction."
Mr Putin rejected US assertions of human rights abuses in Russia, saying in America "you don’t have time to open you mouth and you are shot dead" and that Guantanamo was still in operation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets US President Joe Biden
Credit: Mikhail Svetlov
Mr Biden said: "I hope the US has shown the world we are back, standing with our allies to take on the biggest challenges in the world.
"There’s much more work ahead but we got a lot of business done on this trip."
The two sides had said they expected to meet for four to five hours, but spent less than three hours together, including an opening meeting with just the two presidents and each one’s top foreign official.
Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said: "Relations are pretty precarious. It’s less what we can accomplish together. The real question is what we can avoid. Can we avoid further aggression in Europe? Can we get Russia to back off some of its use of cyber?
"Keeping a bad situation from getting worse is sometimes all you can do in foreign policy."
US media scrum: "Don’t touch me! Stop pushing me!"
If relations between the American and Russian press were anything to go by then the two nations have a real problem.
While Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin sat in frosty silence the media contingents from their respective countries were involved in an unseemly scuffle with each other and officials.
"Don’t touch me! Stop pushing me!" an American journalist screamed repeatedly. Others tripped over cords and one fell to the ground.
Mr Biden and Mr Putin both looked vaguely amused by the scene in front of them. It was one thing, at least, they agreed on.
Swiss officials in the library of Villa La Grange, its walls lined with dust books, tried to remain neutral, but had never seen anything like it.
"This is an 18th Century building!" lamented one Swiss official amid the melee.
The leaders’ photo opportunity, just before the summit, was supposed to be a quick event at which neither leader would speak.
Problems began when the US delegation of 13 reporters, photographers and TV cameramen arrived at a narrow side entrance to find their Russian counterparts already there.
US officials could be heard yelling" "Stop pushing. Move back."
Delivering updates in real time a member of the US contingent said: "We are not being allowed in because everyone is pushing and shoving. Authorities have threatened to keep us out. There’s an extremely chaotic scene at the door."
Nine of the 13 US journalists, and some Russian ones, were eventually allowed inside.
Russian journalists accused the Americans of trying to get too many in.
A Russian reporter said: "The Americans didn’t go through their door, caused a stampede."
Once inside chaos reigned as a US journalist shouted to Mr Biden to ask whether he trusted Mr Putin.
The reporter then communicated that Mr Biden "looked me in the eye and nodded affirmatively."
As US TV networks began reporting a new breakthrough in US-Russian relations the White House denied it, saying he had just been acknowledging the journalists’ presence.
After several minutes of jostling, while Mr Putin and Mr Biden ignored each other nearby, local officials and Russian security had enough of the media.
"Go away. Go away," one shouted and started shoving the journalists.
A US reporter on the scene said: "Russian security pulled the red rope separating the media from the leaders back to try to keep them away from the presidents.
"Russian security yelled at journalists to get out and began pushing journalists. Journalists and White House officials screamed back that the Russian security should stop touching us."
The veteran female journalist said she was pushed repeatedly "nearly to the ground" as others tripped over the red rope.
She said; "Both presidents watched and listened to the media scuffle in front of them. They appeared amused by the scene. At one point, Biden leaned over and spoke to the interpreter and smiled."
Mr Biden later began his press conference by saying: "There’s no problem getting through those doors was there…"