Hard Talk - Soft Progress

Biden shows more SPINE against Putin in comparison to Trump


  • President Joe Biden on Tuesday spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time as commander-in-chief.
  • Biden pressed Putin on an array of topics, including Russian election interference. 
  • The president has pledged to be more assertive with Putin than his predecessor, President Donald Trump. 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone for the first time since his inauguration, raising a number of topics of concern for the US, according to a readout of the call from the White House.

The US president pressed Putin on “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 Aleksey Navalny.” The Russian government has denied any involvement in the above issues.

Navalny, who is Putin’s most prominent critic, was recently arrested in Moscow after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was receiving treatment after being poisoned last August in Siberia. There have been mass protests in Russia over Navalny’s arrest. The Biden administration has called on the Russian government to release Navalny and people arrested in protest of his detention.


Russian President Vladimir Putin says an opulent palace featured in a video by his arch-critic Alexei Navalny “doesn’t belong to me”. The video called “Putin’s palace” went viral on Russian social media last week – more than 86m people have watched it. The palace, by the Black Sea, was allegedly financed by billionaires close to Mr Putin. It is said to have a casino, skating rink and vineyard. Thousands of people rallied for Mr Navalny across Russia on Saturday.


Biden in his call with Putin also emphasized US support for Ukrainian sovereignty amid Kiev’s ongoing war with Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the readout said, as the two leaders discussed their willingness to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty for five years. They agreed to “have their teams work urgently to complete the extension” of the treaty by February 5.

According to a Kremlin summary of the call, Putin congratulated Biden “on the start of his term as US President,”  and emphasized that normalization of relations between the US and Russia would be in the interests of both countries as well as the international community.

“In general, the conversation between the Russian and US leaders was businesslike and sincere. They agreed to maintain contact,” the Kremlin said, echoing the White House’s assertions that both sides would work to extend New START.

The Kremlin’s readout did not mention the issues the White House said Biden expressed concern about to his Russian counterpart.


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