President Joe Biden pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin on a range of issues from human rights abuses to its spying operations but was able to strike a deal to extend a nuclear arms treaty between the two nations, The Washington Post reports.
The call marked a noted shift in tone from former President Donald Trump’s attempts to flatter and defend the Russian leader, as Biden planned to protest “ongoing Russian aggression” in Ukraine, its corporate espionage and attempts to interfere in US elections, and its alleged offer to pay bounties for the deaths of US troops in Afghanistan.
Biden also pressed Putin on the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the subsequent crackdown on protests over his arrest.
“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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Despite the reported tone of the call, the two leaders reached an agreement on an extension of the New START treaty, which was set to expire next week.
The two countries agreed to extend the treaty for another five years.
“The presidents expressed their satisfaction with today’s exchange of the diplomatic notes of having reached an agreement to extend the New START,” the Kremlin said in a statement. “Over the next few days the two sides will finalize all procedures necessary for further functioning of this important mechanism of international law on the mutual limitation of nuclear missile arsenals.”
A sharp break from Trump:
The call, the first between the two leaders, marked a stark change from Trump’s approach after the former president was called a “lap dog for Russia” by Democrats.
Trump and Putin spoke at least 18 times on the phone, and the White House often would not reveal the calls until they were announced by the Kremlin.
“Both sides generally provided anodyne statements acknowledging joint global concerns, along with promises to work together” during Trump’s tenure, according to the Post. “One of Trump’s early calls to Putin, in December 2017, was described by the White House as simply a thank you to the Russian leader for ‘acknowledging America’s strong economic performance in his annual press conference.’”
In another call in 2018, Trump called to congratulate Putin on winning a dubious re-election even though top aides warned him in large letters “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”