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Putin takes a call in 2017. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

President Biden on Tuesday held his first call since taking office with Vladimir Putin, pressing the Russian president on the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the Russia-linked hack on U.S. government agencies.

The state of play: Biden also raised arms control, bounties allegedly placed on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine, according to a White House readout. The statement said Biden and Putin agreed maintain "consistent communication," and that Biden stressed the U.S. would "act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies."

Why it matters: Biden is on course for a deeply adversarial relationship with Putin's Russia, but he'll also have to engage with him on critical issues — most urgently, the extension of the New START nuclear treaty, which is due to expire on Feb. 5.

The other side: The Kremlin quickly provided a readout of the call, stating that the two had discussed the final steps necessary to extend New START, which the statement said would be completed "in the coming days."

  • Biden and Putin also discussed Trump's withdrawal from another treaty, Open Skies, as well as the fate of the Iran nuclear deal and Russia's proposal to hold a summit of permanent members of the UN Security Council, per the readout.
  • "On the whole, the conversation between the leaders of Russia and the United States was of a businesslike and frank nature. It was agreed to maintain contacts," the statement concluded.
  • Between the lines: The Russian readout omitted Navalny, as well as the cyberattack and alleged bounties.

Worth noting: The Kremlin first requested the call last week, AP reports, and Biden agreed but wanted to speak first with allies in Europe and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Go deeper: Biden's Russia challenge.

Go deeper

Jan 27, 2021 - World

Netanyahu doesn't want a fight with Biden over Iran — yet

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Eric Baradat (AFP), Gali Tibbon (AFP)/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hoping to avoid an immediate clash with President Biden over Iran, will give dialogue a chance, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: Biden intends to try to resume the 2015 nuclear deal, which Netanyahu vehemently opposes. The two are on a collision course, and memories are fresh of the crisis in U.S.-Israel relations when Netanyahu was publicly campaigning against Barack Obama's attempts to reach a deal — including in a speech to Congress.

California governor declares drought emergency in most counties

A sign in April on the outskirts of Buttonwillow in California's Kern County, one of the top agriculture producing counties in the San Joaquin Valley, after historically low winter rainfall. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover 41 of the state's 58 counties on Monday.

Why it matters: Most of California and the American West are experiencing an "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, per the U.S. Drought Monitor. Newsom and other officials are concerned California could experience a repeat of the catastrophic 2020 wildfire season.

3 hours ago - World

Jerusalem crisis escalates after Hamas and Israel trade rocket fire

Israeli air strikes in the southern Gaza Strip on May 10. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Nine children were among 20 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes after Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Jerusalem for the first time since 2014 Monday, per AP and Reuters.

The big picture: The rockets come after escalating violence in Jerusalem has injured 250 Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes that began Friday.