Tensions as US, Russia hold strategic stability talks

Publish: 5:41 PM, July 28, 2021 | Update: 5:41:PM, July 28, 2021

GENEVA,  – The United States and Russia were holding a fresh round of talks in Geneva on Wednesday aimed at stabilising the thorny relationship between Moscow and Washington.

The talks are a continuation of the strategic dialogue which started last month in the Swiss city with the first summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden.

The meeting is taking place behind closed doors and with no media present.

The talks, being led by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, are expected to last most of the day.

Moscow and Washington have both toned down expectations, with no spectacular results expected from the meeting — just as with the June 16 presidential summit.

The talks will cover the thorny issue of arms control. Bonnie Jenkins, who one week ago was confirmed as the under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, is part of the US delegation.

“Through this dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures,” the State Department said when announcing Wednesday’s Geneva talks.

Ryabkov told Russian news agencies on Tuesday that the talks would allow Moscow to “understand how serious the mindset of our US colleagues is in terms of establishing a concentrated, energetic dialogue in strategic stability”.

But he added: “I would not raise the bar of expectations.”

– Strained ties –

The diplomacy comes amid tensions on multiple fronts between the two nations.

Washington has warned the Kremlin it will take action if Moscow does not stop the wave of cyberattacks which, according to the US authorities, are largely coming from Russian territory.

Moscow denies any responsibility.

Biden on Tuesday voiced concern about the recent increase in cyberattacks, including via ransomware, which typically see hackers encrypting victims’ data and then demanding money for restored access.

He also accused Putin of seeking to disrupt the 2022 US congressional elections by spreading “misinformation”.

“It’s a pure violation of our sovereignty,” he said, while lashing out at his Russian counterpart.

Putin has “a real problem, he is sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and nothing else,” Biden said. “He knows he is in real trouble, which makes him even more dangerous in my view.”

Putin has nonetheless welcomed Biden’s efforts to bring more predictability to the relationship between the two global powerhouses.

During their Geneva summit last month, the two presidents, who hold the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, shook hands and spoke for more than three hours.

They stressed the importance of dialogue, noting that even at the height of the Cold War, Moscow and Washington spoke to each other to avoid the worst.