CIA director William Burns is making a rare visit to Moscow to discuss US-Russia relations, the latest in a series of high-level contacts that show both sides want to keep talking despite mutual distrust and a long list of disputes.
A US Embassy spokesperson said Burns was leading a delegation of senior US officials to Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday (2 and 3 November) at President Joe Biden’s request.
“They are meeting with members of the Russian government to discuss a range of issues in the bilateral relationship,” the spokesperson said.
Russia’s Security Council said Burns, a Russian-speaker and former ambassador to Moscow, held talks with Nikolai Patrushev, the council’s secretary and a former head of Russia’s FSB intelligence service.
Neither side gave details of the conversation, but security issues loom large in their troubled relationship.
Ties have hit a series of post-Cold War lows over issues including Russian-based cyberattacks against US targets, Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the jailing of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and Russia’s behaviour towards Ukraine, from which it seized the Crimea peninsula in 2014.
Biden sent a top Russia expert, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, to Moscow for talks last month that failed to yield any progress in a dispute between the two countries over the sizes of their respective embassies.
Biden met Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Geneva in June, and said at the time it would take six months to a year to find out whether the two countries could establish a meaningful strategic dialogue.
Putin frequently criticises the United States but said last month he had established a constructive relationship with Biden. The Kremlin has said a further meeting between the two this year is a realistic possibility.