Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that his summit with his U.S. counterpart last month was "useful," adding that the sides were not hoping to remove all differences in the two-hour talks.
"An exchange of opinions and a direct conversation is always very useful," Putin said on August 22, a day before a planned meeting in Geneva between his Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia's seizure of Crimea in 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken often of improving ties with the Kremlin, but even his July face-to-face meeting with Putin in Helsinki has failed to turn relations around.
Washington on August 21 warned it was ready to tighten the economic screws further on Moscow if it does not "demonstrably and significantly change" its ways.
"Though Russia's malign activities continue, we believe its adventurism undoubtedly has been checked by the knowledge that we can bring much more economic pain to bear using our powerful range of authorities," Acting Deputy Treasury Secretary Sigal Mandelker told a Senate committee.
But speaking at a news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin said on August 22 that U.S. sanctions against Russia were "counterproductive and senseless."
"I hope that one day our American partners will realize that this policy [of sanctions] has no prospects, and we will start to cooperate as normal," the Russian leader added.
Putin also defended the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project to carry Russian gas under the Baltic to Germany, saying that Russia is the most suitable supplier of energy for Europe.
Washington has threatened to impose sanctions over the project, which it maintains will increase European dependence on Russian energy.
Putin also suggested that NATO military equipment and personnel deployed in Eastern Europe posed a threat to Russia, saying, "We have to keep an eye on what is going on there and to strengthen our infrastructures.”
"We must respond to the emergence of components of the U.S. missile defense systems near our borders," he added.
In reply to Putin’s comments, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the alliance’s actions in the region were "defensive" and "proportionate."
The 4,000 troops deployed by NATO to its eastern flank to "deter any possible aggression" cannot compare to the forces deployed by Russia in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova "against the wishes of their governments," Lungescu also said.
Putin also accused NATO of refusing to discuss with Russia rules for military flights, but Lungescu denied this, saying that the alliance had discussed air safety in the region at the NATO-Russia Council.
Earlier on August 22, Putin met with his Security Council in Sochi to discuss Moscow’s relations with Washington ahead of Patrushev's planned meeting with Bolton on August 23 -- the first official follow-up to the Helsinki summit.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two will discuss "a lot of issues and they are sensitive."
The Kremlin spokesman said bilateral relations between Washington and Moscow "continue to degrade, so there is a need to search for common ground, trying to understand if it is possible at all and if the other party is willing at all."
Patrushev said late on August 22 that he planned to bring Bolton a set of proposals on cooperation between Russia and the United States, and expressed optimism about the reaction from the U.S. side.
Themes like "strategic stability, regional security," the situations in Syria and Ukraine, as well as bilateral ties are expected to be discussed at the meeting, Patrushev told the TASS news agency.