Kremlin says Putin's attendance at a summit with Biden will depend on Washington’s behaviour

Kremlin says Putin's attendance at a summit with Biden will depend on Washington’s behaviour
US president Joe Biden has offered to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin to thrash out their differences, but the Kremlin is hesitant and says it depends on what the US does in the coming weeks. / wiki
By Ben Aris in Berlin April 15, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attendance at a proposed summit with his US counterpart president Joe Biden will depend on Washington’s behaviour in the coming months, the Kremlin said on April 14.  

During their second phone conversation this year Biden offered to meet Putin for talks in “a third country” in the near future to tackle the many points of contention between the two rivals.  

However, the Kremlin did not immediately agree to the meeting, which was warmly welcomed by the market and saw the ruble rally strongly on the prospect of easing tensions.  

“Of course, further work on this proposal to meet in a European country will only be possible taking into account an analysis of the actual situation and further steps from our counterparts,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said as cited by the RIA news agency.

The two leaders have got off to a rocky start after Biden was asked by a US journalist if he thought Putin was a killer, to which Biden mumbled the answer “I do.”  

More importantly, the US is due to unveil fresh sanctions on Russia in June, which may include harsh restriction on US investors buying and owning Russian debt. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear in a speech in February that Russia would no longer tolerate fresh “economically damaging” sanctions and laid out new rules of the game, as well as threatening to break off diplomatic relations if Moscow deemed any new sanctions as punitive.  

Peskov played down the prospect of a summit, saying it was too early to talk about it in tangible terms.

“It’s a new proposal and it will be studied,” Peskov told reporters, saying no preparations for the summit were yet underway.  

However, Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov invited John Sullivan, the US ambassador in Moscow, to meet the same day, although there were no explanations as to the substance of the meeting.  

RIA reported that Ushakov had told Sullivan that Moscow would “act in the most decisive way possible” if the United States undertook any new “unfriendly steps” such as imposing sanctions.

The situation remains tense, with Moscow going out of its way to make it clear it wants to materially change the way the two countries work together as the Biden administration gets under way. In addition to Lavrov’s tough talk the massive build-up of military forces on the Ukrainian border is seen by some as another message aimed at the White House, warning Russia has the ability to cause a great deal of trouble if relations between the two powers collapse.  

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Brussels on the same day for talks with NATO allies about a range of subjects, including Russia and Ukraine.