US President Joe Biden has called for de-escalating the ongoing tensions with Moscow after his administration launched diplomatic and financial offensives against Russian officials and businesses in retaliation for election-meddling and hacking that compromised major federal agencies.
In his remarks at the White House on Thursday, Biden detailed his phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, as well as his administration’s approach to bilateral relations.
“I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so. I chose to be proportionate,” he said, referring to the punitive actions against Russia that he authorised.
The US earlier in the day announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and sweeping sanctions against individuals and entities in response to Moscow’s alleged election interference and cyber activities.
Among the expelled diplomats are five employees of Russian intelligence services.
In addition, US banks will be barred from trading in fresh Russian state debt starting on June 14, while six Russian technology companies accused of helping the state engage in malicious cyber activities were hit.
In response, Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov summoned US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, telling him that the new sanctions will shortly be followed by “a series of retaliatory measures”.
“The US is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia,” Biden said.
“We want a stable, predictable relationship.”
The President suggested that Washington and Moscow work together to address global challenges such as non-proliferation, global pandemic, and climate change.
“Now is the time to de-escalate. The way forward is through thoughtful dialogue and diplomatic process,” Biden said.
“The US is prepared to continue constructively to move toward that process.”
He said he proposed a summit with Putin in Europe this summer to address a range of bilateral issues, and the two countries are discussing the possibility of this meeting.
“And out of that summit were it to occur, and I believe it will, the United States and Russia could launch a strategic stability dialogue to pursue cooperation in arms control and security,” he said.
In the meantime, Biden warned that “if Russia continues to interfere with our democracy, I’m prepared to take further actions to respond” .
He also reaffirmed the US’ support to allies and partners in Europe, saying he urged Putin “to refrain from any military action” over Ukraine.
The Kremlin repeatedly said that claims of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2020 US elections were baseless and regretful, calling them a pretext for additional sanctions.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have been adversarial in recent years.
The two are bitterly divided over Ukraine, human rights, and cybersecurity issues, and they mutually accuse the other of domestic political interference.