Biden Warns Putin Over Hacking But Proposes Summit in a Call
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photographer: Shaw Thew/EPA/Bloomberg)

Biden Warns Putin Over Hacking But Proposes Summit in a Call

President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call that the U.S. would “act firmly in defense of its national interests” and proposed a summit between the two leaders to discuss the “full range” of issues confronting Moscow and Washington.

The conversation between the two leaders -- the first since Biden said in a March interview that he viewed the Russian president as a “killer” -- came as tensions soar over Russia’s buildup of forces near Ukraine’s borders. It also took place ahead of expected U.S. retaliation over the SolarWinds Corp. hack that American officials blame on Russia.

“The President voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions,” according to a White House statement about the call between the two leaders on Tuesday. “President Biden also made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference.”

The ruble rallied the most in three months against the dollar as investors bet that Biden’s proposal for a summit would de-escalate tensions over Ukraine and mitigate the prospect of harsh new sanctions.

It wasn’t clear when and where a potential summit would take place, but the White House statement said Biden “proposed a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.”

Moscow welcomed the prospect of a face-to-face meeting with the U.S. leader after the affront of the “killer” comment and the White House’s subsequent brushoff of Putin’s offer of direct talks with Biden.

As the tensions over the Russian buildup near Ukraine mounted, Putin dismissed U.S. and European warnings in conversations with the leaders of France and Germany. But the Kremlin’s account of Tuesday’s call with Biden took a more constructive tone, underlining the leaders’ desire to rebuild relations.

“This is about creating a new reality in which Russia is once again not just the focus of renewed trans-Atlantic pressure but a participant in negotiations over important issues of European security,” said Oksana Antonenko, a director at Control Risks in London.

The Kremlin’s statement on the call highlighted that it was initiated by the U.S. side and noted that Biden reiterated his invitation to Putin to participate in next week’s climate summit. Russian state media were speculating within hours of the call on where a summit might take place.

“This is confirmation that Biden, since he proposed this format, wants the meeting to happen pretty quickly,” Tass quoted Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy speaker of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, as saying.

The White House account of the call said the leaders also “discussed a number of regional and global issues, including the intent of the United States and Russia to pursue a strategic stability dialogue on a range of arms control and emerging security issues, building on the extension of the New START Treaty.”

The statement said Biden is seeking to build a “stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with U.S. interests.”

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