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Arms trade, hacking complicates the solution of Joe Biden to Russia

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President Joe Biden has been rapidly plunged into a balancing act with Russia, seeking to improve his administration’s approach towards Vladimir Putin while retaining diplomatic capability in the post-Donald Trump period.

This friendship is definitely different to that shared by Putin with Trump. The Russian leader was in love and wanted his approval, he cast doubt on Russia’s role in 2016 elections and he engaged in a huge hack last year. Although conciliatory, the government pursued a tough path towards Moscow by enforcing sanctions on Russia, Russian firms and business leaders in the fields of energy supply from Ukraine to assaults on dissidents.

Instead of saying he needs to handle conflicts with the former Cold War adversary without actually fixing them or strengthen ties, he did not expect to “reset up” his relations with Russia, but rather he said that. And he does not want a direct conflict with Russia with a clear domestic policy and upcoming decisions regarding Iran and China.

Biden did not talk to Putin as a presidential contender. He is required, as president, to summon Mr Putin for the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and a purge at the weekend of his followers, to lift charges against the Russian security services behind the latest major cybersecurity violation.

Around the same time he must be conscious of his own plan to continue the last existing arms control pact between Russia and the United States, to be signed in early February for five years.

Biden told reporters on Monday that he has yet to determine how to respond to the Navalni situation but that he has hoped for support from the USA and Russia in places where the two can see advantage.

“I find that we can work as a New START agreement both in the mutual interest of our nations and show Russia that, be they Navalny, Solar Winds or bounties on American leaders in Afghanistan, we are very concerned about their behaviour,” Biden said.

According to the White House, which the US proposal to extend the New START on Friday, was accompans by a check on other topics, Biden has already commanded the intelligence community to begin review of each issue.

The strategy was embraced by a few former US diplomats that worked with Russia and look forward to seeing the contours of the Russian policy described by Biden’s team, including Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, and his candidate for State Department No. 3, Victoria Nuland.

In particular, Putin and his helpers in helping the pro-Western lawmakers in Ukraine are reviled by Nuland and held President Barack Obama’s second term European portfolio at the State Department. It is said that She and Sullivan exchange views about the way Moscow should be treated and have a strong position on human rights and Russian motives across Eastern and Central Europe while retaining an open Kremlin platform on other topics.

However, their beginning is difficult, they claim, provided in particular Putins background in negotiating with Trump, which also undercut the hawkish approach of his own administration on Russia by seeking private to make the Russian leader happy.

“This is tough but it’s doable,” said Daniel Fried in George W. Bush’s administration’s US ambassador to Poland and assistant state secretary for European affairs. “They will have to figure this out in the fly, but New START is important without hesitation and without guilt to resist the arrest and other problems.”

“They have to do both, and not allow Putin, if Navalny, SolarWinds, and Afghanistan are to be dropped, to not accept the new START,” Fried told the Atlantic Council. “You must push and Putin’s terms cannot be laid down.”

Putin, though, should be wary in the face of pro-Naval demonstrations in more than 100 cities over the weekends, notwithstanding his unpredictable domestic presence.

The Biden team has responded strongly to the Navalny supporters crackdown over the weekend, when more than 3,700 protesters, including over 1,400 in Moscow, were arrested on protests across Russia.

Navalny was arrested January 17 as he came from Germany back to Russia, where he has spent almost five months recovering from the Kremlin’s poisoning by nerve agent. Anti-corruption activist and Putin’s strongest critical. The allegations are refuted by the Russian authorities.

Jen Psaki, White House Secretary of State Jen and Ned Price, the spokesperson for the State Department, urged Navalny’s immediate and unconditional release.

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