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Biden, Putin discuss ambassadors, nuclear weapons and more

LONDON, (The Southern African Times) – 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.

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.

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