And State Department officials admitted on Tuesday that four of the top generals who staged the coup were already under sanction. Needless to say, these sanctions did not deter them from reversing a ten-year progressive movement towards democracy. (It also doesn’t help that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the fallen civilian leader, saw her reputation as a Nobel Peace Prize irreparably tarnished by her defense of an army that has committed atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.)
Threatening Russian President Vladimir V. Putin will be even more difficult.
Mr. Biden took part in the Obama administration’s debate in 2014 over whether the United States should impose its toughest sanctions to date on Russia for its invasion of eastern Ukraine, and if they should sponsor a combination of physical and virtual warfare in this country. More than six years later, this sanctions regime has failed in its sole purpose: to force Mr. Putin to reverse his course, withdraw his forces and stop harassing a former sovereign Soviet state.
So, when the United States condemned the conviction of Mr. Navalny, the activist whose poisoning and arrest led people across Russia to protest – more than 10,000 whose authorities rounded up – the main Mr. collaborators in the words of one of them, that when it comes to the Kremlin, “We are punished enough”.
Mr Biden’s aides say the difference now is that they will work hard to coordinate pressure with the allies, which Mr Trump has largely ignored for the past four years, as he reached for his phone to tweet the commands new penalties or tariffs. (These tweets were rarely prompted by human rights violations.)
Mr. Putin, of course, likes nothing more than to portray Mr. Navalny and the protesters as instruments of the United States, which seeks to destabilize the country. The last time the United States sued him so directly for suppressing democratic instincts in Moscow was nearly a decade ago, when then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said called his efforts to rig a parliamentary election.
Mr Putin accused her of sending “a signal” to “certain players in our country,” and US intelligence analysts later concluded that Russia’s actions to steal emails from Democrats and release them for embarrassing him in the 2016 presidential election was direct retribution.
But inside Biden’s White House, there is hope that the thousands of Russians who have taken to the streets to protest, electrified by the story of how the government attempted to kill Mr. Navalny, could give the United States an opportunity. If executed skillfully and with the help of European allies, officials in the Biden administration said, many ordinary Russians could welcome the sanctions as a sign that the United States is on their side.