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CIA Chief Meets Russian Counterpart in Turkey

William Joseph Burns sworn in as CIA director by Kamala Harris
William Joseph Burns sworn in as CIA Director by Kamala Harris. Credit: CIA / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The CIA chief met his Russian counterpart in Turkey on Monday. The Kremlin verified that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns met face-to-face with Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR RF), in the Turkish capital Ankara.

The civilian intelligence agents focused on external affairs related to national security in their respective countries in global spheres. The military and political intelligence they collect and examine are for strategic purposes as well as to preempt any possible threats or terrorist attacks.

CIA Chief meets Russian counterpart in diplomatic mission

In this case, it appears Burns and Naryshkin were on a diplomatic mission. Russia is familiar with Burns as he formally worked as a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. President Joe Biden also sent him to Russia in 2021 to caution President Vladimir Putin about his troop build-up around Ukraine.

According to the TASS news agency, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Such negotiations really took place. It was the initiative of the American side.”

A White House official said discussions between Burns and Naryshkin early on Monday were about the consequences of launching nuclear weapons.

One thing they did not talk about was the Russian invasion of Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden had similar conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping over reducing the threat of nuclear war in Ukraine.

Sergey Naryshkin at Security Council Meeting 2019
Sergey Naryshkin at Security Council Meeting 2019. Credit: Администрация Президента России, CC-BY-4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

The American official, who spoke to the Reuters news agency anonymously said Burns “is not [negotiating] settlement of the war in Ukraine.”

He also announced that the U.S had  “briefed Ukraine in advance on [the CIA chief’s mission]. We firmly stick to our fundamental principle: nothing about Ukraine without [Ukraine’s partnership].”

While the meeting between Russia and the U.S. was first reported by Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, the Associated Press reported that two Turkish officials have said they had no knowledge of a meeting between them.

Burns met his counterpart in Turkey, where he shared “a message on the consequences of [Russian wielding] nuclear weapons…and the risks of escalation to strategic stability,” the official said.

Nuclear weapons

Last month, Biden declared that the risk of nuclear “armageddon” was at its highest level since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Since Moscow’s illegal annexation of four regions in Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly said it will defend its territories with all available means, including nuclear weapons.

Biden spoke to Xi prior to a G20 summit that is to begin in Bali on Tuesday. They discussed Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which “reaffirmed our shared belief in the threat or the use of nuclear weapons is totally unacceptable.”

The talks referenced Moscow’s thinly veiled threats to atomic weapons as its invasion of Ukraine reached its ninth month.

The G20, according to the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations, is a forum of nations created in 1999 between the world’s larger and emerging economies. They converse on issues such as war, economic crisis, the environment, and the COVID-19 pandemic among other things. There are often disputes with the G20 in terms of global trade and administration of debts.

START and the Black Sea Grain Initiative

The CIA Chief met with his Russian counterpart to discuss a number of issues. Besides the war in Ukraine, topics include the extension of the START arms treaty, the Black Sea grain export deal, which is due to expire soon, and political prisoners.

START is a bilateral treaty between the U.S. and Russia on the reduction and containment of strategic offensive arms. The treaty was signed on July 31, 1991 and entered into force on December 5, 1994. Boris Yeltsin was the then President of Russia. Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush was in office during its negotiation, and President Bill Clinton facilitated its implementation.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative of July 2022, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, is between Russia and Ukraine. This ensures the safe passage of cargo ships to and from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. This pact was necessary after Russia’s invasion disrupted exports, creating global food security concerns.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres confirmed the meeting in Turkey when asked about it in Bali. Guterres stated the United Nations was not involved in the talks.

“It’s very positive that the U.S. and Russia are having talks because that is an extremely relevant development in relation to the future, but we are not involved,” Guterres said.

Fans of Brittney Griner hope CIA chief meeting with Russian counterpart helps set her free
Brittney Griner Credit: Lorie Shaull , CC-BY-SA-4.0 / Wikipedia

Prisoner Swap

Biden said that, this month, he hoped Putin would be willing to confer on a possible prisoner swap, as he hopes to secure the release of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, who was recently sentenced to nine years in prison on drug charges.

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, sentenced in 2020 to sixteen years on espionage charges, may also be part of negotiations.

Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer jailed in the U.S., is mentioned as a person who may be swapped for Griner and Whelan in such an exchange.

Griner’s fans hope the CIA chief’s meeting with his Russian counterpart in Turkey went as planned.

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