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Masks depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny at street souvenir shop Masks depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, left of Putin, at a street souvenir shop in St. Petersburg, Russia, Jan. 17, 2021 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

Ready or Not, Biden Faces an Early Test With Putin

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden’s first opportunity to pivot away from Donald Trump’s often cozy approach to Russia came just days before he took office. The Kremlin’s swift detention of President Vladimir Putin’s chief critic, Alexei Navalny, when he returned to Moscow on Sunday—five months after surviving a failed assassination attempt—presents Biden with perhaps unwelcome pressure to respond quickly. But it also gives his administration the chance to accelerate its goal of reversing four years of silence on Russia from the White House and simultaneously restarting diplomatic coordination with much-neglected European allies.

Navalny’s decision to return to Russia was either foolish or brave, depending on your view of personal sacrifice for a higher cause. Everyone, including himself, knew Putin would not countenance his presence. ...

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