Biden, Putin Discuss Ambassadors, Nukes06/17 06:11

Biden, Putin Discuss Ambassadors, Nukes06/17 06:11

   Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin of Russia spent more than three 
hours discussing issues Wednesday at their summit in Geneva. They ticked 
through their respective lists so quickly and in such "excruciating detail," 
Biden says, that they looked at each other and thought, "OK, what next?"

   (AP) -- Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin of Russia spent more than 
three hours discussing issues Wednesday at their summit in Geneva. They ticked 
through their respective lists so quickly and in such "excruciating detail," 
Biden says, that they looked at each other and thought, "OK, what next?"

   The most pressing issues the leaders discussed:

   AMBASSADORS

   Biden and Putin agreed to return their respective ambassadors to Washington 
and Moscow in a bid to improve badly deteriorated diplomatic relations between 
their countries.

   Russia's ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, left Washington 
in March amid a row after Biden called Putin a killer in a television interview 
and imposed new sanctions on Russia over its treatment of opposition figure 
Alexei Navalny.

   John Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, flew out of Moscow in April 
after public suggestions from Russian officials that he should leave to mirror 
Antonov's departure.

   Both ambassadors were present at Wednesday's summit.

   Putin also said the Russian foreign ministry and the U.S. State Department 
would begin consultations on other vexing diplomatic issues, including the 
closures of consulates in both countries and the employment status of Russian 
citizens working for U.S. missions in Russia.

   A senior Biden administration official said Sullivan is likely to return to 
Moscow next week. A different senior administration official said both 
governments had begun discussing consulate and local staff issues and the hope 
was an agreement could be reached in the next two months.

   Neither administration official was authorized to comment publicly by name 
and both spoke on condition of anonymity.

   ___

   CYBERSECURITY

   No breakthroughs on this issue were announced, but the leaders agreed to at 
least talk about what has become a major source of conflict between the U.S. 
and Russia.

   Biden said he and Putin agreed to have their experts work out an 
understanding about what types of critical infrastructure would be off-limits 
to cyberattacks. He said the U.S. presented Russia with 16 specific types of 
infrastructure, including energy, elections, banking and water systems, and the 
defense industry.

   The agreement comes amid a flood of ransomware attacks against U.S. 
businesses and government agencies, including one in May that disrupted fuel 
supplies along the East Coast for nearly a week. The disruption was blamed on a 
criminal gang operating out of Russia, which does not extradite suspects to the 
U.S.

   Other serious incidents include the SolarWinds intrusion discovered last 
year in which hackers, believed by U.S. authorities to be Russian, penetrated 
multiple U.S. government networks and prompted Biden to impose additional U.S. 
sanctions against Russia.

   Biden said the U.S. and Russian governments would follow up on certain 
criminal cases, an apparent reference to cybercriminals operating with impunity 
from Russian territory.

   Putin agreed there is mutual interest in the subject.

   Biden also made an implicit threat against Russia, saying the U.S. has 
"significant cyber capability" it could use against Russia if it were to 
interfere with U.S. critical infrastructure.

   ___

   NUCLEAR WEAPONS

   Biden and Putin instructed their diplomats to begin laying the groundwork 
for a new phase of arms control.

   The "strategic stability dialogue" would be a series of discussions designed 
to set the table for a negotiation by sorting out what exactly should be 
negotiated. More broadly, it would aim to reduce the risk of war between the 
world's two largest nuclear powers.

   Biden said the goal is to work with Russia on "a mechanism that can lead to 
control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the 
scene now, that reduce the time for response, that raise the prospect of 
accidental war." He said this was discussed in detail.

   No date was announced for the start of talks.

   The basic idea is to identify and sort out the many areas of disagreement 
over what a future arms control treaty should address. It also would address 
ways to avoid unintended or accidental moves that could trigger war.

   Shortly after Biden took office in January, he and Putin agreed to extend 
until 2026 the New START treaty that limits long-range nuclear weapons. The 
challenge now is to work out what a potential follow-on pact would include.

   The Russians insist it include defensive weapons, such as U.S. missile 
defense systems. The Americans argue that it should include so-called tactical 
nuclear weapons, which are not covered by New START and of which the Russians 
have a far larger number deployed. It might also include new and emerging 
technologies such as hypersonic missiles and space weaponry.

   ___

   PRISONER EXCHANGE

   Biden said he raised with Putin the plight of two Americans detained in 
Russia.

   Putin had opened the door to possible discussions about a prisoner swap with 
the U.S. and said those conversations would continue. Biden said he would 
follow up, too.

   The U.S. is holding two prisoners whose release Russia has sought for more 
than a decade, including arms trader Viktor Bout. The other is Konstantin 
Yaroshenko, a pilot who was extradited from Liberia in 2010 and convicted the 
next year of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.

   Biden said Americans Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed are being "wrongfully 
imprisoned" in Russia.

   Whelan, who also holds Canadian, Irish and British citizenship, was arrested 
in Moscow in 2018, convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years. Whelan 
says he was just visiting Moscow.

   Reed was convicted of assaulting a police officer while intoxicated and 
sentenced to nine years. Putin, in a recent interview with NBC News, called 
Reed a "drunk and a troublemaker."

   ___

   HUMAN RIGHTS

   Biden said he'll continue to air with Putin concerns about basic human 
rights because it is a core tenet of what the United States stands for.

   Biden said he couldn't be president of the United States and not raise human 
rights issues during the summit with Putin. He mentioned the internationally 
publicized case of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

   But Putin said Navalny got what he deserved when he was handed a stiff 
prison sentence. Navalny is Putin's most ardent political foe. He was arrested 
in January after returning to Russia from Germany, where he'd spent five months 
recovering from nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian 
officials deny involvement in Nalvany's poisoning.

   Navalny received a 30-month prison sentence for violating terms of a 
suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction he dismissed a 
politically motivated.

   ___

   SYRIA

   Biden pressed Putin to drop a push to close the last international 
humanitarian crossing into Syria, making clear the matter was of "significant 
importance" to the U.S.

   No deal was reached to keep it open, however.

   Russia is threatening to use its U.N. Security Council veto to close the aid 
route for millions of Syrians internally displaced by that country's war.

   ___

   AFGHANISTAN and IRAN

   Biden said Putin asked about Afghanistan and expressed a desire that peace 
and security be maintained there. Biden said he told Putin that a lot of that 
will depend on him, and that Putin indicated he was prepared to "help" on 
Afghanistan as well as on Iran.

   Biden declined to go into further detail. Biden's administration is mounting 
new efforts to get Iran to comply with the terms of a nuclear deal it had once 
agreed to before Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the U.S. from the 
agreement the U.S. and other world powers struck with Iran in 2015.

   Putin also talked about preventing a resurgence of terrorist violence in 
Afghanistan. Biden said it would be very much in Russia's interest to not see 
that happen.

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