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The Biden administration announced sanctions of Russian officials and more than a dozen businesses Tuesday for a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack upon opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. (March 2)
JOE BIDEN: This is also how we're going to be able to meet the threat from Russia.
ANGELA STENT: The Biden administration today sanctioned a number of individuals and entities in connection with the use of a nerve-agent to poison Alexei Navalny and then people who were responsible, presumably, for getting him jailed.
But the Trump administration also imposed a large amount of sanctions on Russia. President Trump himself didn't talk about it very much because obviously he wanted a more forward-leaning policy, but in fact, some of the individuals who were sanctioned today were sanctioned under Trump.
DONALD TRUMP: There's nobody been tougher on Russia than I have.
MATHEW LEE: The Trump administration, where you had people at Treasury, people at the State Department, people at the Pentagon all on board, but the president himself was not really and kind of had-- not really on board and had to be cajoled or, in some cases, reportedly ignored to get sanctions through to show US resolve against Russia and in support of both Russian dissidents, Russian opposition, and countries in Eastern and Central Europe.
ANTHONY BLINKEN: The United States is ready to engage Russia in strategic stability discussions on arms control and emerging security issues.
ANGELA STENT: The US is coordinating its policy toward Russia now much more with the Europeans. Secretary Blinken attended remotely a meeting of the European Union foreign ministers a couple of weeks ago, where they were talking about sanctions. And I think that that is very different from the Trump administration, which was much more critical of Europe and didn't try and coordinate policy with them, particularly vis a vis Russia.
But it's the second act, really. The first act in the Biden administration's policy toward Russia was to renew the New START nuclear arms control agreement, which is a signal that they want to pursue engagement with Russia on issues that are in the US national interest, like arms control, but they will push back against Russia and Russian behavior on actions which they think are inimical for us but also for the Russian people.
MATTHEW LEE: Given the history of the pushback against any kind of opposition to the leadership, that-- it's pretty significant. And so, you know, I don't think this is going away even, though Navalny is in jail, and I don't think that the EU or the United States are going to let this rest.
ANGELA STENT: So what you have is a movement when Navalny has galvanized people to come out in the streets and protest, but it's about more than just him. It's about just a system where you have massive corruption at the top, where you've got greater repression. The way they've treated these protesters, the brutality with which-- which they've beaten them-- they have them in overcrowded jail cells.
All of this-- it's kind of snowballing, and so I think what we can tell from these protests is that even though Putin looks secure now theoretically, there's quite a lot of discontent underneath. And then the people in the Kremlin are going to have to deal with that.