During a press conference at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Brussels, President Joe Biden stated that if imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, a staunch critic of Vladimir Putin’s regime, were to perish in detention, it would have a deteriorating effect on U.S.-Russia relations.
“Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights. It would be a tragedy. It would do nothing but hurt his [Putin] relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me,” Biden declared.
When a reporter expressed concern that Biden’s meeting with Putin so early on in his term could be perceived as a capitulation to Moscow, the president responded, “Every world leader here that’s a member of NATO… thanked me for meeting with Putin now.”
Biden reiterated that the world leaders he consulted privately and publicly believed it “thoroughly appropriate” for him to have a conversation with the Russian president. He explained that while the press has questioned him about the timing of his discussion with Putin, many nations’ have insinuated in “consensus” that it’s not “soon enough.”
Biden’s statement comes ahead of his official meeting with Putin scheduled for Wednesday, after his first trip abroad as president and following the G-7 meeting in the United Kingdom and the NATO summit in Belgium.
His comments regarding Navalny also come after the administration sanctioned senior Russian officials in March, in coordination with the European Union, after he was poisoned with a nerve agent and subsequently incarcerated with a two-and-a-half years prison sentence for his outspoken views against corruption in the Russian government.
In an act repudiating the Biden administration’s position, Putin’s courts last week shut down the political network of Navalny on the same day that Biden boarded Air Force One for Europe. Similarly, only a few weeks ago Russia announced the creation of 20 new military units to be stationed along its western border, expressly intended to counter NATO.