President Biden on Thursday condemned Russia for its jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and pledged to take a firmer stance on Russia than his predecessor.
In remarks at the State Department laying out his approach to foreign policy, Biden explained that his administration sought a full five-year extension of the New START arms treaty with Russia to safeguard nuclear stability but said he would “not hesitate” to confront Russia on its aggressive tactics. Biden also criticized former President Trump for failing to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different than my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over,” Biden said. “We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interest and our people.”
Biden also said the U.S. would be “more effective” in dealing with Russia by coordinating with allies, emphasizing the priority he places on NATO and other alliances.
The president’s remarks came two days after a Russian court sentenced Navalny to a 32-month prison term for violating the terms of his release. The opposition figure had recently returned to Russia following a poison attack in Germany that the international community has blamed on the Russian government.
Biden directly rebuked Moscow for its treatment of Navalny and called his arrest “politically-motivated.”
“The politically-motivated jailing of Alexei Navalny and the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community,” Biden said. “He should be released immediately and without condition.”
Biden has directly called out Russia for its aggression since he took office, including raising Navalny’s poisoning and other issues on his first phone call with Putin after entering office last month.
The president has also ordered an intelligence community review of the SolarWinds hack linked to Russia, alleged Russian bounties on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Russian election interference.
But underscoring the challenge of confronting Russia, Navalny was jailed just days after Biden raised concerns about his treatment on the call with Putin. Biden administration officials have not specified what actions may be taken in response to the treatment of Navalny, citing the reviews of Russian behavior that are underway.
“Unlike the previous administration, we will be taking steps to hold Russia accountable for the range of malign actions that Russia has taken,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at a White House briefing earlier Thursday. “We will do that at a time and manner of our choosing.”
Sullivan said that the Biden administration believes it will be able to take a firmer and more effective approach to Russian behavior but signaled officials would work with Russian counterparts in areas of mutual concern.