The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, traveled on Tuesday to Moscow, at the head of a delegation of officials, in a visit that indicates a US desire to deepen relations with Russia, despite the tensions between the two countries, according to an analysis by the New York Times .
The US embassy in Moscow said, in a statement, that Burns was traveling at the request of US President Joe Biden.
“They are meeting with members of the Russian government to discuss a range of issues in bilateral relations,” an embassy spokesman said of the US delegation’s visit on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Burns met the Kremlin’s Security Council Secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, who is widely seen as the most powerful figure among Russian intelligence officials in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
The newspaper reported that Burns’ trip, at least the fourth by a senior US official to Moscow, since last July, indicates a significant increase in contacts between the two countries following the summit that brought together the two presidents, last June.
As for Biden’s sending Burns, in particular, it is of great importance, according to the newspaper, which confirmed that he has a long experience with Moscow, where he worked as the US ambassador to Russia, from 2005 to 2008.
Officials on both sides say that the talks have so far not yielded much progress and are aimed, above all, at stabilizing the relationship between two nuclear-armed adversaries who are increasingly competing in cyber as well as in geopolitics.
The talks include issues such as arms control and cyber security.
For example, the US has handed over the names and other details of a small number of hackers who are actively conducting cyber attacks on US companies from Russia, and is waiting to see if the information could lead to arrests, the New York Times reported.
The two sides also discuss other issues of common interest, including North Korea, Afghanistan and climate policy.
US officials have also said that Moscow has assisted in ongoing talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
Russian officials have publicly raised the possibility of a second meeting between Biden and Putin before the end of the year, but the White House has not confirmed that another summit is under consideration.
“While the number of issues on which we have reached an agreement is not large, we are on the right track,” Putin said last month, praising the White House as “interested in building relations.”
It is likely that “US officials would like to see more progress on the issues discussed in Geneva before agreeing to another meeting.”