President Biden’s top national-security adviser has engaged in recent months in confidential conversations with top aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to reduce the risk of a broader conflict over Ukraine and warn Moscow against using nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, U.S. and allied officials said.
The officials said that U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan has been in contact with Yuri Ushakov, a foreign-policy adviser to Mr. Putin. Mr. Sullivan also has spoken with his direct counterpart in the Russian government, Nikolai Patrushev, the officials added.
The aim has been to guard against the risk of escalation and keep communications channels open, and not to discuss a settlement of the war in Ukraine, the officials said.
Asked whether Mr. Sullivan has engaged in undisclosed conversations with Messrs. Ushakov or Patrushev, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said: “People claim a lot of things” and declined to comment further. The Kremlin didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The White House hasn’t publicly acknowledged any calls between Mr. Sullivan and any senior Russian official since March, when he spoke with Mr. Patrushev.
The unpublicized discussions come as traditional diplomatic contacts between Washington and Moscow have dwindled and Mr. Putin and his aides have hinted he might resort to using nuclear arms to protect Russian territory, as well as gains made in his invasion of Ukraine this year.
Despite its support for Ukraine and punitive measures against Russia for the invasion, the White House has said that maintaining some level of contact with Moscow is imperative for achieving certain mutual national-security interests.
Several U.S. officials said that Mr. Sullivan is known within the administration as pushing for a line of communication with Russia, even as other top policy makers feel that talks in the current diplomatic and military environment wouldn’t be fruitful.
Officials didn’t provide the precise dates and number of the calls or say whether they had been productive.
Some former American officials said that it was useful for the White House to maintain contact with the Kremlin as U.S.-Russian relations are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. [Continue reading…]