Bill Burns, director of the CIA, the US intelligence agency, is taking a group of senior U.S. officials in Moscow to a two – day meeting with Russian officials, a U.S. embassy spokesman said Tuesday.
“They are meeting with members of the Russian government to discuss a number of issues in the bilateral relationship,” the spokesman did not elaborate.
One such meeting was between Burns and Nikolai Badrushev, chairman of Russia’s National Security Council. The powerful council’s stern statement said the two sides discussed “Russian-US relations.” The meeting was not announced in advance and the CIA, which did not discuss the director’s agenda, declined to comment.
Rare – but unheard of meetings between the CIA chief and senior Russian security officials amid continuing tensions between Washington and Moscow.
The Biden government has imposed sanctions on Russia over election interference, the poisoning of dissident critic Alexei Navalny and cyber-attacks on US interests. Authorities are closely monitoring the recent movements of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. Russia is also under sanctions for annexing Crimea in 2014.
However, the United States sees opportunities to cooperate with Russia, especially in arms control, as the intelligence community under previous administrations sought points of mutual interest with Moscow.
“To keep Americans safe, we meet with our Russian intelligence colleagues from time to time for the same reason as our predecessors,” Mike Pompeo, former President Trump’s first CIA director, wrote in a letter supporting a meeting with senior CIA officials. Russian Intelligence in Washington 2018. This meeting attracted attention because it took place mainly on US soil, with officials who were under US permission.
Burns, a senior diplomat with extensive experience in Russia. He served as US Ambassador there from 2005 to 2008.
At an event in Washington last week, Anne Newberger, national security adviser for emerging and cyber technologies, said the Biden administration was maintaining “open, direct and open dialogue” with Russia over cyber attacks.
Biden pressed Putin to quell a wave of ransomware attacks from Russia on US companies.
A senior government official told reporters anonymously last month that the US government had “shared information with Russia about criminal ransomware activity in its territory.”
However, it is unclear whether the talks yielded significant results. Nobilium, the Russian hacker group behind the Solar Winds hack, has compromised 14 technology companies since May as part of another apparent spy campaign, Microsoft said last week.
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