On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden, while speaking on the coronavirus response and the state of vaccinations in the US, commented on a variety of issues, including his "hope" to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June during the former's trip to Europe.
“That is my hope and expectation. We are working on it,” Biden replied to reporters on Tuesday when asked if he is planning to meet the Russian president during the European trip.
Earlier in April, Biden suggested in telephone talks with his Russian counterpart that they meet in a third country to discuss bilateral relations between Washington and Moscow. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Friday said that a proposed summit is in works for this summer.
“President Biden has indicated in his conversations with President Putin, and publicly, he believes that such a summit would be valuable in establishing better understandings between our two countries and the possibility of getting this relationship on a more stable, predictable path", Sullivan said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov indicated that the summit initiative has been received positively, and Moscow is currently considering the aspects of a possible meeting between Putin and Biden.
Even though the Biden administration said it does not "seek to escalate with Russia", bilateral relations have been tense recently. The US expelled 10 Russian diplomats from America and imposed sanctions on 32 Russian entities and individuals, baselessly accusing Moscow of cyberattacks and hostile acts against US interests.
Russia has consistently denied the claims, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressing that Moscow has never been involved in cybercrimes and cyberterrorism.
In response, the Kremlin introduced reciprocal actions on the US diplomatic mission to Russia, expelling employees of US diplomatic missions "in numbers proportional to the actions taken by the US authorities against Russian diplomats."
The Russian Foreign Ministry outlined in a statement announcing the countermeasures that "there is no room for unilateral dictates in the new geopolitical reality", noting that "it seems Washington is unwilling to accept" it. The ministry said that US "bankrupt scenarios for deterring Moscow [...] only promise to further degrade" the bilateral relations between the two countries.
"In this context, the appeals from across the ocean to refrain from escalation and essentially accept this attempt to talk to us from a position of strength sound hypocritical", the statement said. "We have repeatedly warned and demonstrated in practice that sanctions and any other pressure will never succeed and will only have dire consequences for those who dare attempt such provocations."
Biden, who has consistently been critical of Putin and promised to be "tough" on Russia, also stated that he will try to cooperate with Moscow in areas where it would be consistent with US interests, including nuclear nonproliferation, climate change and other issues.
In March, Biden's affirmative answer to a reporter's question on whether the US president considered Putin a "killer" fueled tensions between the two countries. Lavrov described Biden's words about Putin as "outrageous, unprecedented rhetoric".