So much for those "positive" and "constructive" talks between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva just days ago... on Sunday the White House indicated it's preparing a new package of sanctions on Russia over the "poisoning of Alexei Navalny" - who remains in a prison outside of Moscow serving a sentence from a prior embezzlement and parole violation charge.
"We are preparing another package of sanctions to apply in this case, as well. We've shown along the way we're not going to pull our punches," national security advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.
He explained just prior to making this announcement on the Sunday news show that "We have sanctioned Russia for the poisoning of Alexei Navalny ... We rallied European allies in a joint effort to impose costs on Russia for the use of a chemical agent against one of their citizens on Russian soil."
That first round of Navalny-related sanctions had previously targeted the director of Russia's FSB security agency over allegations that the anti-Putin activist had been poisoned with nerve-agent just before boarding a plane bound for Siberia in August. He was subsequently emergency life-flighted to a hospital in Berlin. He later returned to Moscow after recovery where he was taken into Rusisan custody and imprisoned on prior charges.
By the end of Wednesday's Biden-Putin summit, tensions were palpable as Western media correspondents in the press pool appeared deeply dissatisfied that the meeting was "quite friendly" - in Putin's words, and that the two leaders "were able to understand each other on key issues." The mainstream networks were no doubt hoping for more overt Putin-bashing from the US president. The frustration was on clear display, for example, when CNN's Kaitlan Collins went after Biden, resulting in Biden loosing his cool: "What the Hell?!" he shot back at her...
"What the hell? ... when did I say I was confident? ... if you don't understand that, you're in the wrong business" -- Biden gets upset at Kaitlan Collins's shouted question as he tries to leave the news conference pic.twitter.com/mCQ1218LaW— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 16, 2021
As part of that exchange Biden was pressed over why he didn't take a tougher line with Putin over the fate of Alexei Navalny.
Since the summit, there's been increased pressure on the Biden White House to take a more aggressive stance on human rights and Russia, also given that Putin has been presenting the interaction as largely a success for the Russian side. These new Navalny-related sanctions appear geared toward appeasing the Russia hawks on both sides of the aisle who remain frustrated by how things went in Geneva.
In the meantime, Navalny has for months been claiming he "could die in prison" related to a series of serious ailments that he says prison authorities won't give him proper medical treatment for. His supporters have waged an intense international media campaign to keep his plight front and center, despite prior to the whole saga him having very little name recognition inside Russia, and certainly hardly any recognition in front of a global audience.
That all changed off course after the 'Skipral-like' bizarre 'nerve agent poisoning' events of last summer, which resulted in tit-for-tat sanctions and removing of diplomats between Russia and EU countries, taking relations to a low-point.