Putin Acknowledges Biden’s Election Win for First Time

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Putin Acknowledges Biden’s Election Win for First Time

President Vladimir Putin expressed willingness to work with President-elect Joe Biden.

Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/Zuma Press

MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his election win after it was confirmed by the Electoral College, but some senior Russian officials said they were doubtful that the coming change in the White House would improve the antagonistic relationship between the two nuclear powers.

In a message to Mr. Biden on Tuesday, the Russian leader expressed confidence that Russia and the U.S. “which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, really contribute to solving many problems and challenges that the world is currently facing.” He added that he was “ready for interaction and contacts” with Mr. Biden.

His outreach came a day after the Electoral College formalized Mr. Biden’s win, confirming that he had secured more than the 270 votes needed to take office next month. It also followed the disclosure this week that Russia’s foreign-intelligence service is suspected of being behind hacks at several federal government agencies, including the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments. Moscow has denied the charges.

But some senior Russian officials remain skeptical that a Biden administration will usher in significant changes in relations between Moscow and Washington.

“We are not interested in personalities, we are interested in bilateral interaction in global issues,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state news channel Zvezda TV on Sunday. “And, unfortunately, we do not see anything dramatic in terms of improving bilateral relations…from the change of people in the White House,” she said.

Members of the Electoral College met in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on Monday to formally cast the votes that determine the presidential election. California’s 55 electoral votes put President-elect Joe Biden over the 270 needed to win. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Moscow and Washington have been at odds in recent years over a raft of issues including Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, accusations of Kremlin-endorsed interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election and Russia’s involvement in the war in Syria. The U.S. has imposed numerous sanctions on Moscow, exacerbating the mutual distrust between the two nations. Russia’s initial hopes for renewed ties with the U.S. under the Trump administration fell flat over several issues, including Washington’s efforts to undermine Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project to Germany, although Mr. Putin did praise President Trump’s efforts to seal an oil deal that stabilized crude prices earlier this year.

A month before the U.S. vote, Mr. Putin noted what he described as then-presidential nominee Mr. Biden’s sharp anti-Russian rhetoric. Mr. Biden once referred to Mr. Trump as “Putin’s puppy.” At the same time, the Kremlin leader said he was encouraged by Mr. Biden’s stance on arms control. The president-elect has said he would extend the New START treaty, a nuclear arms-reduction agreement that expires in February, and use it as a foundation for working out other arms-control arrangements.

Write to Ann M. Simmons at ann.simmons@wsj.com

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