Putin and Biden speak on the phone about arms control but also Navalny, Ukraine, hackers, and U.S. unilateralism
Vladimir Putin spoke to Joseph Biden today in what was the first phone call between the leaders of Russia and America since the U.S. presidential elections last November. The conversation was “businesslike and sincere,” according to the Kremlin’s official readout:
“Vladimir Putin congratulated Joseph Biden on the start of his term as U.S. president. He noted that normalization of relations between Russia and the U.S. would meet the interests of both countries and, considering their special responsibility for maintaining global security and stability, of the entire international community.”
The two presidents discussed the urgent negotiations now underway to extend the New START arms control treaty by February 5, as well as a range of other “emerging security issues,” according to the White House.
Summarizing the call, Washington and Moscow both mentioned Ukraine (“the United States’ firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty” versus “the domestic settlement in Ukraine”), but the two readouts diverged thereafter. According to the White House, President Biden raised “matters of concern” including “the SolarWinds hack, reports of Russia placing bounties on United States soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 United States election, and the poisoning of Alexey Navalny.”
The Kremlin, on the other hand, says President Putin discussed the coronavirus pandemic, trade, and the economy, as well as “the U.S.’s unilateral withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, the problem of preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program, […] and the Russian initiative to hold a summit of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.”
In seeking a five-year extension to the New START treaty, the Biden administration has vowed to “engage Russia in ways that advance American interests” while simultaneously “remaining clear-eyed about the challenges Russia poses and committed to defending the nation against [Russia’s] reckless and adversarial actions.” Unlike past presidents who initially sought diplomatic “resets” with the Kremlin, Biden is not expected to pursue any major changes in U.S. policy toward Russia.