U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken makes a statement when he meets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium on April 14, 2021.
Johanna Geron | Reuters
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart in person in Iceland next week. These are the high-level personal conversations between Washington and Moscow since President Joe Biden took office.
The meeting, announced on Wednesday in separate statements by the US State Department and the Russian State Department, will take place on May 20 on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council.
Blinken, who spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, urged Moscow to release former U.S. Marines Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, who will be sentenced to 16 and 9 years in prison, respectively, according to a U.S. State Department complaint.
“Secretary Blinken reaffirmed President Biden’s determination to protect US citizens and vigorously defend US interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote in one Explanation.
According to a translation of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement, Blinken and Lavrov were discussing “Washington’s proposal to organize a Russian-American summit.” Biden had proposed a summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin in a telephone conversation with the Russian head of state in April.
The US also gave Russia an overview of Washington’s policy towards North Korea, according to the State Department. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had discussed ongoing negotiations to revitalize the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. The United States and Russia have the lion’s share of the world’s nuclear weapons.
The call between Blinken and Lavrov comes when the Biden government pushes back against Russia on several fronts.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Costas Baltas Reuters
In March, the United States sanctioned seven members of the Russian government for the alleged poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s leading critic in Russia. The sanctions were the first to be directed against Moscow under Biden’s leadership. The Trump administration has taken no action against Russia because of the situation in Navalny.
In April, Washington hit Russia with another round of US sanctions for human rights abuses, widespread cyberattacks and attempts to influence the US elections. The Biden government has also banned 10 officials from Russian diplomatic missions in the United States.
Moscow has previously denied any wrongdoing and denied US allegations. Russia called the White House’s recent moves a blow to bilateral relations and pledged to take swift retaliatory measures.
In response to the US action, Russia has expelled 10 US diplomats from the American embassy in Moscow.