Amid heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow, U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan has discussed with his Russian counterpart bilateral issues, “regional and global matters of concern,” as well as “the prospect of a presidential summit” between the two countries’ presidents.
Sullivan and Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, agreed in their telephone call on April 19 "to continue to stay in touch," National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement, which came after the Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin planned to speak later this week at an online summit on climate change organized by the United States.
Patrushev and Sullivan "discussed the preparations” for a summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as “possible directions for the development of Russian-U.S. cooperation," Russia's Security Council said in a statement, according to Russian news agencies.
Biden has proposed to meet the Russian leader face-to-face to discuss bilateral relations. Putin has not yet indicated whether he would accept that invitation.
Last month, Biden also invited Putin and other world leaders to the virtual summit on climate change on April 22-23.
But since then relations between Washington and Moscow have entered a new phase of heightened tensions, with Biden announcing punishing sanctions over cyberattacks, election interference, and threats against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Further souring the mood -- and raising questions over whether Putin would attend the summit -- has been the issue of the health of jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, Russia's buildup of troops along the border in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and new allegations of Russian involvement in a deadly explosion at a munitions depot in the Czech Republic in 2014.
At the upcoming virtual summit, Putin will "outline Russia's approaches in the context of forging broad international cooperation aimed at overcoming the negative effects of global climate change," the Kremlin said in a statement on April 19.
The first day of the summit coincides with Earth Day and will "underscore the urgency -- and the economic benefits -- of stronger climate action,” the White House said on March 26 in announcing the summit.
Biden also invited Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not yet said whether he will take part.
The gathering is meant to highlight Washington’s renewed commitment to stemming climate change, and build toward the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow, Scotland, the White House said on March 26.
Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris Agreement on his first day in the White House, reversing former President Donald Trump's exit from the landmark climate accord.
The White House has said that climate change is one area where it may be possible to cooperate with China and Russia, even as ties are strained over many other issues.
The United States and China agreed that stronger pledges to fight climate change should be pursued in line with the Paris Agreement, according to a joint statement issued on April 17 after U.S. climate envoy John Kerry visited Shanghai.
"The United States and China are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands," the joint statement said.