February 28, 2024

United States President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (L) discuss foreign policy at the State Department in Washington, DC on February 4, 2021.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden warned Moscow Thursday that the United States will not hesitate to raise the cost of Russia and defend American interests in his first major foreign policy address since he took office.

“I made it clear to President Putin, in a very different way than to my predecessor, that the days of the United States are over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions that disrupt our elections, launch cyberattacks and poison its citizens,” Biden said.

“We will not hesitate to increase the cost to Russia and to defend our vital interests and our people, and we will deal with Russia more effectively if we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners,” said the president.

Biden called for the release of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, who was imprisoned in Moscow last month and sentenced to more than two years in prison. Navalny was poisoned last year and spent months recovering in Germany. He blames the Kremlin for its poisoning.

“Mr Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian Constitution,” said Biden. “He has been targeted for exposing corruption and should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Navalny’s detention has sparked mass protests across Russia over the past two weekends. Thousands of demonstrators were arrested by Russian police.

“The Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are very important to us and the international community,” said Biden.

Biden’s government is facing increasing pressure to sanction Russia for Navalny’s poisoning. The UK and the European Union imposed sanctions last year. Members of Congress had urged President Donald Trump to do so, but his administration did not act.

The White House is currently investigating other issues related to Russia, including the hacking of SolarWinds, reports of Russia’s bounties for American forces in Afghanistan, and possible election nuisance, and will determine its response based on its findings.