Open allegations and threats of sanctions from one side – poison arrows from the other: relations between the USA and Russia are more tense than they have been for years. Now the Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up again.
On Russian state television, Putin proposed a live debate to his counterpart in Washington, Joe Biden. He invited Biden to “continue our discussion, but on the condition that we actually do this live, or whatever you call it online,” said Putin. At the weekend he wanted to “go to the taiga to relax a bit,” he added smugly. But he would have time on Friday or Monday.
Putin’s offer is unlikely to be taken very seriously – rather, it is to be interpreted as another joke against the US president. There was recently an open verbal exchange of blows via the media between Putin and Biden. Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki made it clear in Washington that Biden did not regret having called Putin a “killer” in an interview. Biden “gave a straight answer to a straight question,” said Psaki.
US Secretary of State warns pipeline companies
In an initial reaction, Putin had shown himself to be unimpressed by Biden’s verbal attack and declared that he wanted to shape future relations with Washington solely to Moscow’s advantage. After Biden’s statement that he considered Putin a “killer,” the Kremlin chief said in a televised address that one should not infer others from oneself.
Putin also wished 78-year-old Biden “good health, without any irony” and then affirmed that Moscow would not be intimidated by Washington. “We will defend our interests and work with them on terms that are beneficial to us,” he said.
Meanwhile, the USA is threatening again with sanctions in the Nord Stream 2 case. The Biden government has asked companies to withdraw from the construction of the German-Russian Baltic Sea gas pipeline. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the warning on Thursday that “any company that is involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline risks US sanctions and should immediately cease work on the pipeline.”
Track efforts to complete the project and evaluate information about companies “that appear to be involved”. Blinken emphasized that the Biden administration would implement the sanctions laws against Nord Stream 2 passed by the US Congress with bipartisan majorities.
From the ranks of the Republicans in the US Congress, the pressure had previously grown on the government of the Democratic US President Joe Biden to impose new sanctions. So far, the US has only imposed sanctions on the Russian company KVT-RUS, which operates the Fortuna laying ship, because of Nord Stream 2 – the government of the Republican US President Donald Trump announced these sanctions shortly before the end of her term in January.