The United States imposed new sweeping sanctions against Russia after Joe Biden came to power nine months ago. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow almost stopped issuing visas.
The two global rivals nevertheless began to hold talks against the backdrop of general political tension. The Biden-Putin Geneva summit in June laid the foundation of a series of contacts between the two countries.
Ann Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology in the Biden Administration, has been holding behind-the-scenes virtual meetings with her Kremlin counterpart. A few weeks ago, the U.S. passed Moscow names of hackers who attacked U.S. agencies and some other data.
The U.S. is now waiting to see if this information leads to any arrests. This will be an acid test for Putin since he has openly said that he will help law enforcement agencies in the fight against extortion and other cybercrimes. Both Russian and American officials report that these negotiations have not yielded any significant results so far but they help keep the strained Russia-U.S. relations under control.
For the White House, these negotiations are an opportunity to avoid geopolitical surprises that could interfere with Biden's priorities such as competition with China and domestic politics which is a very problematic sphere. For Putin, talks with the richest and most powerful country are a way to demonstrate Russia's international influence and cast himself as a guarantor of stability in domestic politics.