Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin that the United States will respond to Russia’s “malicious actions” as the two presidents strike a crucial nuclear weapons deal in their first phone call.
According to the White House transcript of the appeal on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin discussed a five-year extension of the New Start Arms Control Treaty, agreeing “that their teams work urgently to complete the extension” before its expiration on February 5.
The White House said Mr Biden also raised a number of issues his predecessor Donald Trump was reluctant to raise with his Russian counterpart, drawing criticism for too comfortable with Mr. Putin.
Mr. Biden “reaffirmed” America’s “strong support” for Ukraine’s sovereignty, and addressed the SolarWinds hacking, the bonuses against American soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 elections and poisoning of the Leader of the Opposition Alexei Navalny, said the White House.
“President Biden has made it clear that the United States will act firmly to defend its national interests in response to Russian actions that harm us or our allies. The two presidents agreed to maintain transparent and coherent communication in the future, ”he added.
New Start, which was signed in 2011 and was due to expire on February 5, is the last bilateral defense treaty in force between former Cold War enemies, following a series of withdrawals other pacts under the Trump administration.
Obtaining an extension of the treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads held by the two countries, was seen as a critical test of the new Biden administration’s ability to work with Mr Putin. Analysts had predicted that its expiration could jumpstart an expensive and potentially dangerous cost new nuclear arms race.
The Kremlin said in a statement that the two countries exchanged diplomatic notes confirming an extension of the New Start Treaty.
“In the coming days, the parties will complete all the necessary procedures to ensure the further functioning of this important international legal mechanism for the mutual limitation of nuclear missile arsenals,” the Kremlin said.
“Vladimir Putin congratulated Joseph Biden on the start of his work as President of the United States,” the Kremlin newspaper said, adding that “the normalization of relations between Russia and the United States would meet the interests of both country, [taking] given their special responsibility to maintain security and stability in the world, the entire international community.
“Overall, the conversation between the leaders of Russia and the United States was commercial and frank. It was agreed to maintain contacts, ”the Kremlin said.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have been strained since Mr. Biden took office, underlined by the condemnation by the US State Department of the “tough tactics” used by the Russian authorities against protesters and journalists at week-end.
“We call on the Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Navalny,” the State Department said. “The United States will join our allies and partners in defending human rights, whether in Russia or wherever they are threatened.”
In a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Mr Biden also spoke about the treatment of protesters during his call with Mr Putin.