WASHINGTON ― A summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is in the works for this summer in a third country to get the tense relationship “on a more stable, predictable path,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday.
Sullivan said at the Aspen Security Forum that he held a call with his Russian counterpart Friday morning and that the two sides were actively looking for a venue. He added that Biden is looking forward to personally engaging Putin.
The comments come days after Russia’s defense minister ordered troops back to their permanent bases following massive drills amid tensions with Ukraine, but said they should leave their weapons behind in western Russia for another exercise later this year.
Sullivan reiterated U.S. backing for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“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. “And the president’s also made clear that Ukraine — and this is an obvious point — would be near the top of the list on the agenda for such a meeting.”
Defensive materiel from the U.S. to Ukraine would continue to be part of broader diplomatic efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict, but it would be “in stride” with the ongoing security partnership.
“The United States has fielded requests from the Ukrainians in the past and supplied them, and will field requests in the future and be willing to provide certain types of materiel,” Sullivan said. “So that’s an ongoing dialogue between our security teams and their security teams.”
Sullivan declined to say what he thinks was Putin’s motivation for the buildup but acknowledged its subsequent pullback was “a constructive step.” The strategy, he said, is to “use high-level, private diplomatic channels to communicate with the Russians” in consultation with Germany and France.
Ahead of Biden’s visit to the June NATO summit in Brussels, the administration is working with its counterparts to carve out a new 10-year strategic concept. Beyond reaffirming mutual defense, it will look at cyberthreats from Russia and China as well as potential collaborations beyond Europe.
“It means having NATO think about partnerships, not just on the periphery of Europe or the Middle East or in South Asia, but in the Indo-Pacific as well,” Sullivan said. “You know, not to extend the formal alliance but rather to conceive of security in a much more holistic, global way.”
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.