White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that President Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss, among other matters, renewing a soon-to-expire nuclear arsenal treaty and the recently reported massive SolarWinds hack.
“I will just convey to you that he called him,” Psaki said, adding that the conversation was initiated to put forward the country’s “willingness” to extend a nuclear arms agreement know as the New START, which is quickly approaching expiration.
The pact, set to expire on Feb. 5, is the only remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.
WH press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Pres. Biden called Putin to discuss US willingness to extend the New START for 5 years and also to make clear that "the United States will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia." pic.twitter.com/DrfTZsTWGL
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) January 26, 2021
The news comes after White House official told the Washington Post that Biden had ruled out allowing a “reset” in bilateral relations with Moscow as many of his predecessors have done since the end of the Cold War.
Psaki told reporters during a White House briefing on Tuesday that Biden had also reaffirmed during the call the United States’ strong support for Ukraine sovereignty in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression and had raised an array of concerns that emerged in the final months of former President Trump’s tenure, but went largely unaddressed. That includes Russia’s massive SolarWinds cyberhack effort which breached IT systems of several government agencies — including the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the National Institutes of Health, among others.
Psaki said that Biden had also addressed on his call with the Russian leader a report from The New York Times that Russian operatives had placed bounties on the heads of American and coalition troops in Afghanistan — an effort that Trump dismissed when reports surfaced on the issue last summer.
Biden is said to have also touched on reported efforts by the eastern European nation to interfere in the recent 2020 presidential elections.
Over the weekend, news had also surfaced that peaceful protesters had been subject to violence and intimidation by Russian security forces in light of Russia’s jailing of Putin critic Aleksei Navalny, who was poisoned with a nerve agent last fall, which Biden discussed with Putin, Psaki said.
Although President Trump often refused to condemn the Russian government, raising concerns over national security, the call within a week of his presidency could signal Biden’s commitment to taking a tougher posture with Russia.
“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,” Psaki said.
See the full White House readout below:
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. They discussed both countries’ willingness to extend New START for five years, agreeing to have their teams work urgently to complete the extension by February 5. They also agreed to explore strategic stability discussions on a range of arms control and emerging security issues. President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. He also raised other matters of concern, including 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. 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 two presidents agreed to maintain transparent and consistent communication going forward.