Russia Has 'No High Expectations' for U.S. Ties After Early Joe Biden-Vladimir Putin Tensions

Russian diplomats are expressing little hope of a thaw in ties between the Kremlin and Joe Biden's White House, amid widespread predictions that the administration will continue its tough early approach to Moscow.

Biden vowed to take a harder line on Vladimir Putin while on the campaign trail, hoping to exploit concerns that Donald Trump was unwilling—or unable—to hold the Russian president to account for his malign conduct at home and abroad.

Russia sought to denigrate the Biden campaign during the 2020 election, according to American law enforcement and intelligence officials, reflecting concern in Moscow that Putin would face a more difficult and experienced adversary if Biden won the presidential race.

The new president has wasted little time in asserting American grievances, despite also making a quick decision to extend the New START arms control treaty that had been stuck in the doldrums under Trump.

Biden's first call with Putin was reportedly frosty, both administrations open about the large number of policy disagreements that came up.

The White House has also been at the forefront of criticism over the imprisonment of pro-democracy and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny and the suppression of protests in support of the opposition leader.

Russian diplomats said this week they had little hope of an imminent thaw in relations with the U.S., putting the onus on Biden's White House to chart a policy line more agreeable to the Kremlin.

Moscow's ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov said this week: "We all have no high expectations for what awaits us," according to the state-run Tass news agency.

"Everything that we do, we do absolutely correctly," the diplomat said during a ceremony honoring Alexander de Bodisco, a 19th-century Russian envoy to Washington. "In a calm manner and without hysteria, we are defending Russia's national interests through the development—whenever possible—of Russian-U.S. relations," Antonov added.

The ambassador lamented the "most difficult conditions" under which Russian diplomats have worked in recent years. Although Trump was accused of an anemic Russian strategy, his administration did oversee more sanctions, the expulsion of diplomats and increased support to the country's rivals.

"The last three administrations did nothing to improve the stay of Russian diplomats here, to make it calmer and more comfortable," Antonov added.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova—known for her inflammatory comments—said on Wednesday that she expected the Biden administration to articulate its Russian strategy fully within the next month.

"The way I see it, not only the team, but the approaches are still in the making," Zakharova told the Ekho Moskvy radio station, according to Tass. "No approaches have been announced to the key issues, at least, those on the international agenda, yet," she added.

Zakharova has previously expressed skepticism about Biden's chances of improving ties with the Kremlin. In December, she said Moscow saw "no cardinal changes in terms of the improvement of bilateral relations."

Russians walk in Red Square, Moscow
Policemen and other people wearing face masks walk in Moscow's Red Square on February 6. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images/Getty