resident Putin must be missing Donald Trump already. In the long-established diplomatic code used in such communiques, the White House “read out” reports that Joe Biden “raised matters of concern” during his phone call to Vladimir Putin, their first conversation since Mr Biden took office. President Biden “made clear that the United States will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies”.
Clear enough, when decoded, and foreful stuff – a marked departure from the usually soft approach of the Trump administration. The Kremlin, for its part, was a little less opaque: “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 “hot line” remains open, then, but there is no mistaking that relations between the two countries are being placed in a more normal footing. As every president before Donald Trump has done, Mr Biden was firm in his objections to Russia’s recent international behaviour, and the list of transgressions is a lengthy one. President Biden raised hacking of US government computers, the Russian bounties in US troops in Afghanistan, interference in US elections, the attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny, and the sovereignty of Ukraine.