Biden proposes summit with Putin as US-Russia tensions escalate

US president Joe Biden has proposed a summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in a third country “in the coming months”, the White House said, following a marked cooling of relations between Washington and Moscow.

Any summit would be the first between Putin and a US president since a 2018 meeting with Donald Trump in Helsinki, where the American leader said he believed his Russian counterpart instead of his own intelligence services on the topic of Moscow’s alleged attempts to meddle in the 2016 election.

According to a readout of a call between the two presidents on Tuesday, Biden suggested a summit meeting in a third country “to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia”. He also called on Moscow to de-escalate tensions following a build-up of Russian military in Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders. 

Biden emphasised the US’s “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, the readout said.

The Kremlin said in its account of the call that Biden had “expressed interest in normalising the state of affairs” between the two countries.

The US president had suggested the summit meeting could focus on “establishing stable and predictable interaction on such acute problems as ensuring strategic stability and arms control, the Iranian nuclear programme, the situation in Afghanistan and global climate change”, the Kremlin said.

The call to Putin comes little over a week after Biden spoke with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and expressed US support in the face of “Russia’s ongoing aggression”.

Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, earlier on Tuesday accused the US of moving troops to eastern Europe and the Black Sea regions bordering Russia, as well as “building up maritime and land forces in the Arctic”.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have deteriorated in recent weeks, with Russia summoning its ambassador to the US back to Moscow for “consultations”.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister said on Tuesday that the ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, would only return when Moscow had “figured out what line the [Biden] administration was going to pursue towards Russia”.

The recall followed an earlier exchange of insults between Putin and Biden, who accused the Russian leader of being “a killer” in a broadcast interview.

In mid-March, US intelligence released an unclassified report concluding that Putin authorised “influence operations” intended to support Trump’s bid for re-election in the 2020 presidential campaign and damage Biden.

On Tuesday the White House said Biden “made clear” that the US would “act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference”.

Biden and Putin also discussed “the intent” of the two sides to “pursue a strategic stability dialogue on a range of arms control and emerging security issues”, the readout said.

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