President Biden called Russia President Vladimir Putin Tuesday, to address a wide range of topics on national security, including the renewal of a nuclear arms treaty, bounties placed on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and interference in the 2020 election.
Biden’s first step at rebuilding diplomacy with one of the U.S.’s chief adversaries, was to get the U.S. and Russia back at the table and agree to a five-year extension to their only remaining nuclear arms treaty.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as START, was jeopardized last year when the Trump administration initally said they would not agree to renew the treaty set to expire in February, unless China was brought into the agreement – a move that China flatly rejected.
President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the original 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia in Oct. 2018, claiming the former soviet nation wasn’t living up to their end of the bargain, leaving just the New START treaty in tack.
The White House confirmed Tuesday that both the U.S. and Russia will “work urgently” to complete the extension by the Feb. 5 deadline.
The two nations “also agreed to explore strategic stability discussions on a range of arms control and emerging security issues,” confirmed the White House in a statement.
But Biden hit other tough topics in his first phone call with Putin since entering the White House last week.
The SolarWinds hack – one of the largest cyber security breaches in U.S. history, by suspected Russian government perpetrators – was on Tuesday’s agenda, along with the reported Russian bounty placed on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year.
“President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” the White House said in a statement.
Biden accused his predecessor of being weak on Russia, calling Trump “Putin’s puppy” during the first presidential debate last year, criticizing him for not taking decisive action after reports surfaced regarding bounties placed on American soldiers in Afghanistan.
The newly inaugurated president also confirmed the U.S.’s stance on supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, condemned the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.
Putin has not publicly commented on the phone call he had with Biden Tuesday, but the Kremlin released a statement noting that the “normalisation of relations” between the two super powers was not only for the benefit of their relationship, but “for maintaining global security and stability, of the entire international community.”
Biden also addressed concerns regarding reports by the intelligence community of a repeat in Russian interference in the 2020 general election. The president’s decision to address election interference with Putin is a direct contrast to Trump’s response of reports of election interference in 2016 — at one point suggesting he trusted Putin’s word over U.S. intelligence officials.
Biden has said he will make restoring U.S. diplomacy a cornerstone of his presidency by improving relations with allied nations and expanding treaties with adversaries like Russia and Iran.