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Putin’s offer of a phone call with Biden was made to save links, according to the Kremlin.

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Putin's offer of a phone call with Biden was made to save links, according to the Kremlin.
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Putin's offer of a phone call with Biden was made to save links, according to the Kremlin.

Putin’s offer of a phone call with Biden was made to save links, according to the Kremlin.

 

President Vladimir Putin’s offer to talk by phone with US President Joe Biden, the Kremlin said Friday, was made to keep bilateral relations from collapsing over the American’s remark that the Russian leader was a murderer.

According to Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, “it makes sense to have a talk to preserve Russia-US ties rather than trade barbs,” and he decided to make it public to help defuse tensions over Biden’s “very bad remarks.”

When asked if he thought Putin was a “killer” in an interview broadcast Wednesday, Biden replied, “I do.” Russia replied by recalling its ambassador to Washington for consultations, and Putin responded on Thursday by pointing to the United States’ legacy of slavery, Native American slaughter, and World War II atomic bombing of Japan in a “it-takes-one-to-know-one” response.

At the same time, Putin claimed that Russia will continue to work with the US when it supports Moscow’s interests, adding that “a lot of honest and decent citizens in the United States want peace and friendship with Russia.”

He proposed calling Biden in the coming days to speak about the coronavirus pandemic, regional disputes, and other problems, and he suggested that the call be open to the public.

Putin’s offer to make the call public, according to Peskov, was made to avoid Biden’s comment from causing irreparable harm to the already strained relations.

“Because Biden’s words were so uncommon, unprecedented formats can’t be ruled out,” Peskov said. “President Putin suggested that the situation be discussed publicly because it would be beneficial to both countries’ citizens.”

The Kremlin has yet to hear back from the White House on the call bid, according to Peskov, who also confirmed that the request will not be repeated.

In a conference call with reporters, he said, “The request has been made.” “A lack of response would imply a failure to engage in dialogue.”

Calls between heads of state are usually held behind closed doors, but the first part of Putin’s video call with French President Emmanuel Macron was televised in June.

By taking a strong stand against Russia, Biden has confirmed that the United States’ days of “rolling over” to Putin are over. And he has gone to great lengths to contrast his stance with that of former President Donald Trump, who avoided direct conflict with Putin and often praised him.

Biden will continue to pursue agreement on attempts to stop Iran’s nuclear program and, more generally, nuclear nonproliferation, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. She did note, however, that Biden did not regret referring to Putin as a murderer, and she fought back against arguments that the rhetoric was counterproductive.

After Moscow’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, election meddling, hacking attacks, and, most recently, the incarceration of Russia’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny after his poisoning, which he blamed on the Kremlin, Russia’s ties with the United States and the European Union had already sunk to post-Cold War lows. The allegations were denied by Russian authorities.

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, predicted that Russia-US relations will remain strained in the coming years, emphasizing the importance of avoiding military incidents between the two countries.

In a commentary, Trenin said, “The most important thing in relations with the United States for the near future is to prevent an inadvertent military conflict,” adding that Moscow and Washington have the requisite contact channels. “It is important to avoid potential accidents between Russia’s armed forces, the United States’ and its allies’ aircraft and ships, or, if they do occur, to resolve them as soon as possible.”

Putin approved influence operations to support Trump’s reelection campaign, according to a report released by the US national intelligence director’s office on Wednesday. Russia will face sanctions shortly, according to the Biden administration, for its effort to sway the election and the huge SolarWinds hacks.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, weighed in on the debate, calling Biden’s remarks about Putin “unbecoming of a head of state.”

“It is simply not appropriate or palatable for a head of state to use such a term against the leader of a country like Russia,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul. Putin’s response, he said, was “very astute and elegant.”

Erdogan’s remarks come as Turkey’s attempts to normalize its strained relations with the United States have gone unanswered. Since his inauguration in January, Biden has not spoken with Erdogan on the phone.

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