Off to a Bad START: Putin Schools Biden with One Phone Call

According to Russian news service Ria Novosti, on Tuesday, the presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, held a telephone conversation.

January 29, 2021

During the conversation, Biden and Putin agreed to a five-year extension of START-3, until 2026, “100% on Russian terms, without additions, in the form in which it was originally signed.”  As a result of the call, the authorized Duma committees were ordered to urgently take the necessary steps to extend START-3.  On that same day, Putin submitted to the State Duma a bill on the ratification of START-3 through 2026; it immediately passed.  Putin’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov enthused that “START-3 is being extended on Russian terms, for 5 years, without any conditions or additional requirements, without attempts to change the START verification regime, without those, in our view, absurd and unacceptable aspirations of the previous administration to make sure to draw the PRC [China] into this process without fail.”

Biden ran on a platform that was endorsed by the entire American security and foreign policy establishment. The platform stand was to rebuild international multilateralism, taking no actions without coordination with our allies. Trump was routinely condemned by the establishment for insisting on the “America First” approach in foreign policy. Biden’s promise of multilateral cooperation with allies didn’t last a week. Indeed, he showed even more disregard for America’s NATO allies than Trump ever did. Biden’s phone call to Russian President Putin was his first serious test of foreign and security policy; he flunked. In the course of that one phone call, he casually agreed to a five-year extension of the New START Treaty, a treaty that originally took months to negotiate.

On Tuesday afternoon January 26, C-SPAN broadcast Biden’s press briefing on Racial Equity, held in the White House State Dining Room.  Following his remarks, he ceremoniously signed four related executive orders.  After signing the fourth, Biden stood up abruptly and made to leave the room.  On his way out, a young reporter could be heard calling out, “Mr. President, what did you talk to Mr. Putin about?”  Over his shoulder Biden tossed back the quip, “You! He sends his best.” — and hightailed it out of the room before he could be pinned down with having to explain what he and Putin said during the call.

His hapless Press Secretary Jen Psaki was more forthcoming during a press briefing on January 26 regarding the phone call.  But Psaki misrepresented what actually was said regarding START, claiming only that Biden phoned President Putin “with the intention of discussing our willingness to extend New START for five years.”  She added, “His intention was also to make clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of our natio….

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