Biden addressed arrest of Alexey Navalny, Ukraine, and reports of bounties on US soldiers, the White House said.
United States President Joe Biden has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since taking office, raising concerns about Russian activities including the treatment of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, the White House said.
Biden has said he will take a harder line against Russia than former President Donald Trump, in particular by strengthening ties with European allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is meant to serve as a bulwark against Russian aggression.
After the call with Putin, both the White House and the Kremlin released statements saying the leaders had extended for five years the New START arms control treaty, which limits the deployment of strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 for each of the nuclear-armed countries.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden also raised “the poisoning” of Navalny, who was evacuated to Germany after being exposed to the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in Siberia, and the crackdown on his supporters, who took to the streets across the country on Saturday.
Biden also expressed “firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty”. He raised “other matters of concern” including the so-called SolarWinds hack of US agencies, reports last year of Russia placing bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan, and Russian meddling in the 2020 election.
“His intention was also to make clear that the United States will act firmly in defence of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia,” Psaki said.
The Kremlin, for its part, said Putin told Biden that a normalisation of relations between Moscow and Washington would be in both countries’ interests. It added that the two leaders also discussed the Open Skies treaty, from which the US withdrew under Trump, and Iran’s nuclear programme.
The call came days after the US Department of State condemned Russia for a crackdown on supporters of Navalny. Russia’s foreign ministry accused the US of “meddling” in domestic affairs.
Call with NATO
Biden spoke to Putin shortly after getting off the phone with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump had been an outspoken critic of NATO during his time in office, at one point reportedly considering leaving the alliance and maintained that the US was overpaying in its direct contributions to the military alliance.
In the call on Tuesday, Biden sought to repair the strained relations between the US and Europe by stressing Washington would abide by the NATO treaty’s mutual defence pact, the White House said in a statement.
“President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to collective defense under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and underscored his commitment to strengthening transatlantic security,” the statement said, referring to the article that says that NATO members will view an armed attack on one member country as an attack against all, and will take collective action.
Biden’s phone call with Stoltenberg came a day after he spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“The president thanked the [NATO] secretary general for his steadfast leadership of the alliance, and conveyed his intention to consult and work with allies on the full range of shared security concerns, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Russia,” the White House statement said.