President Joe Biden is not afraid of Russian President Vladimir Putin, nor is he enamored with the ex-KGB man. Unlike the previous White House resident, Biden is no slouch in the intelligence department either. Oh, to be able to hear what 46 had to say to the Moscow dictator in their first phone conversation, but we do have some hints.
In White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s regular daily press conference, reporters asked about the call. She said that Biden would tell the Russian he wanted a full five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms treaty. Not one to shy away from the facts, the newest president intended to bring up his concerns regarding “Russia’s ongoing aggression.”
‘[Biden intended] to reaffirm our strong support for Ukraine sovereignty in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression and also to raise matters of concern including the SolarWinds hack, reports of Russia placing bounties on United States soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 election, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, and the treatment of peaceful protesters by Russian security forces.’
‘His intention was also to make clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia.’
Biden has already ordered intelligence reviews regarding a number of Moscow’s problematic activities. He planned to tell Putin to knock off the far-reaching SolarWinds hack, the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin’s alleged bounties on US military heads in Afghanistan, and the Russian’s interference in American elections:
‘I find that we can both operate in the mutual self-interest of our countries as a New START agreement and make it clear to Russia that we are very concerned about their behavior.’
‘whether it’s Navalny, whether it’s SolarWinds or reports of bounties on heads of Americans in Afghanistan. [He would] not hesitate to raise those issues with the Russians.’
This was not the first phone call Biden had with other national leaders. He had already spoken with the leaders of Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Then on Tuesday, Biden talked with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Since before taking office, Biden has addressed the US’s relationship with Russia. He said he wanted to work with the country with 11 times zones in any area of shared interests, such as arms control.
Putin does not respect lapdogs, so he will probably work far better with Biden. The US president will not avoid Putin’s antagonistic behavior expressed over the past four years but face it full on.
Last week, Biden’s administration formally notified the Russian head of state about the New START extension. This was the only existing major arms control pact between the two countries. Moscow appeared amiable to the demand.
The Russian government released a readout of Tuesday’s call which was interestingly different. The statement indicated that Putin congratulated Biden. It also stated that the two countries’ normalization of relations would be mutually of interest.
In addition, Moscow indicated that the two were in agreement on extending New START. The Kremlin reported that the leaders discussed Ukraine. However, Putin did not address the issues Psaki said that the American president would raise.
The White House will release a formal readout of the call later Tuesday.
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