Joe Biden calls Vladimir Putin for the first time as president

Biden calls Putin to press for release of  poisoned opposition leader Navalny: President also warns he’ll consider sanctions over Solar Wind cyberhack and bounties on U.S. troops

  • President Joe Biden has phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday
  • Called to discuss renewing New START nuclear treaty
  • Also raised ‘concerns’ including 2020 election interference
  • Brought up clampdown on peaceful protests and Navalny poisoning, plus invasion of Ukraine 
  • Bounties on U.S. soldiers and SolarWinds breach also discussed 

President Joe Biden has phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time in office – and raised a series of sensitive issues that stand between the U.S. and Russia.

Among the most pressing concerns he brought up were the Russian state clampdown on peaceful protesters following the return of opposition figure Alexei Navalny to Russia.

Navalny is currently serving a 30-day prison sentence in Russia after leaving the country for medical care after being poisoned.

President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the White House said. In this March 10, 2011, file photo, then-Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Putin when he was prime minister

Biden also raised Russian ‘interference in the 2020 election,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday at her daily press briefing, along with reports that Russia had placed ‘bounties’ on U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan. 

Psaki said Biden initiated the call to pitch an extension of the New Start strategic nuclear treaty. 

‘He called President Putin this afternoon with the intent of discussing our willingness to extent New START for five years. Also to reaffirm our strong support for Ukraine sovereignty in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,’ she said, mentioning Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.

She said Biden also called ‘to raise matters of concern’ and mentioned the solar winds hack on networks across the U.S. government, ‘reports of Russia placing bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 election, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, and treatment of peaceful protesters by Russian security forces.’

INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK: Putin has denied opposition leader Alexi Navalny’s claims of corruption

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden and Putin spoke during the course of her press briefing, which began around 12:30 pm

Intervention: Joe Biden said Monday he was not reluctant to raise issues with Russia including the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Russian policemen detain men during an unauthorized protest rally against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny

She said the call was also ‘to make clear that he United Staes will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia,’ and promised a further readout. 

She identified election interference as a concern she listed Monday, although Biden didn’t mention it when he was asked about Russia later Monday.

U.S. intelligence determined that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, and top officials gave warning of ongoing actions this fall. 

Word of Biden’s call follows a Trump administration where the president was reluctant to criticize Russia, even as his administration under congressional pressure imposed sanctions on Russian actors to protest the government’s actions. 

Even after reporting this summer that the U.S. had intelligence of the Russian bounties, Trump failed to raise the issue with Putin when they had a call in July. 

‘That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly, that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,’ Trump told Axios at the time.

He said regularly during the 2016 campaign and afterward that it would be a good thing if the U.S. had better relations with Russia.

During his infamous Helsinki meeting with Putin, Trump appeared to accept his denials of interfering in the U.S. elections, despite what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded. 

By bringing up Ukraine, Biden raised an a territorial invasion that sparked a round of Obama administration and European sanctions. 

President Trump made his infamous July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodym Zelensky seeking an investigation of the Bidens. His administration held up military aide being sought by the country in a bureaucratic maneuver that became a subject of his first impeachment. 

After the 2016 elections, Trump’s incoming national security advisor Mike Flynn held calls with the then-Russian ambassador. He would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts, where Obama-era sanctions were discussed. Trump pardoned Flynn before Thanksgiving.

Psaki on Monday called for the ‘immediate’ release of Navalny, who returned to his home country and is being held for 30 days after being poisoned with a chemical nerve agent.

‘These continued efforts to suppress Russia’s rights to peacefully protest and assemble, their freedom of expression, the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the crackdown on protests that followed are troubling indications of further restrictions on Russian civil society,’ said Psaki, echoing a State Department statement issued Saturday. 

‘So I’ll just reiterate our call from here on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Navalny,’ she added. 

 It came after a weekend which saw his wife Yulia Navalnaya arrested them released from custody in Moscow after being part of an anti-Putin rally on Saturday.

Alexei’s wife was among nearly 3,500 people to have been detained by Russian police officers during protests in as many as 100 cities.

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