WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden held his first phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, confronting him on several issues, including the recent massive cyberattack that breached government agencies.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the call took place and said the Kremlin had requested the call.
Mr. Biden was wanting to reached out with the intention of discussing the New START nuclear treaty. Other things discussed were Russian aggression in Ukraine; the Solarwinds cyber hack, reports Russia placed bounties on American troops serving in Afghanistan; Moscow’s interference in US presidential elections; and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
“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,” Psaki said.
During the campaign, Mr. Biden constantly slammed former President Donald Trump as being too soft with Mr. Putin, calling him “Putin’s puppy” at one of the presidential debates. The President hopes to be much more firm on Russia that his predecessor was.
Mr. Biden also told reporters on Monday he is hopeful to have a working relationship with Mr. Putin, opening bid for diplomacy on the nuclear treaty.
“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 the Solar Winds or whether it’s reports of bounties on the heads of Americans in Afghanistan,” he said.
A readout of the call was sent out by the White House, showing there is no urgency to repair existing damage nor to do any harm to each other at the beginning of the Biden administration.
Mr. Biden has spoken with leaders in France, Germany and the United Kingdom on issues related to Russia. The Kremlin’s readout of the call did not go into details but said other “acute issues on the bilateral and international agenda” were discussed.
The phone call comes amid violence in Russia following pro-Navalny protests that took place in more than 100 Russian cities over the weekend. More protests are planned for the upcoming weekend.