CIA Director William Burns met with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top national security adviser in Moscow on Tuesday, according to a brief statement from Russia’s Security Council.
Why it matters: U.S.-Russia tensions remain high, with the State Department warning last week that it will be forced to maintain only a “caretaker presence” in Moscow after the Russian government banned the U.S. embassy from employing local staff.
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The big picture: President Biden quickly moved to impose several waves of sanctions against Russia upon taking office, retaliating for the attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny, interference in the 2020 election, and SolarWinds’ hack of U.S. federal agencies.
Since then, Biden has sought to prevent the relationship from spiraling out of control as the U.S. pivots to confront China, which his administration has deemed the top geopolitical challenge of the 21st century.
Biden held a summit with Putin in June, where the two leaders agreed to launch a set of “expert consultations” on preventing ransomware attacks against the U.S. from being launched from Russian soil.
The relationship has largely remained without major confrontation since then, but the discovery of new cyberattacks by Russia-backed hackers and a possible military buildup on the Ukrainian border threaten to renew tensions.
The visit by Burns, which a CIA spokesperson declined to comment on, comes after Russia lifted sanctions on top State Department official Victoria Nuland to allow her to meet with Kremlin officials last month.
Putin did not travel to the G20 Summit in Rome or the COP26 climate talks in Scotland due to coronavirus concerns, but a Kremlin spokesperson said a second meeting between Biden and the Russian leader before the end of this year is “quite realistic.”
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