Politics

Biden says U.S. will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia, calls for Navalny's immediate release

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Key Points
  • "We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people," Biden said.
  • Biden called for the release of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, who was detained in Moscow last month and sentenced to more than two years in prison.
US President Joe Biden, with US Vice President Kamala Harris (L), speaks about foreign policy at the State Department in Washington, DC, on February 4, 2021.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

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

"I made it very clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russian aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens, are over," Biden said.

"We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people, and we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like minded partners," the president said.

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

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"Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution," Biden said. "He's been targeted for exposing corruption and should be released immediately and without condition."

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

"The Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community," Biden said.

The Biden administration faces growing pressure to impose sanctions on Russia for Navalny's poisoning. The U.K. and the European Union imposed sanctions last year. Members of Congress had called President Donald Trump to do so, but his administration did not act.

The White House is reviewing other Russia-related issues including the hacking of SolarWinds, reports of bounties placed by Russia on American forces in Afghanistan, and potential election interference and will determine its response based on its findings.