Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial in Iceland on Wednesday, marking the first in-person meeting between high-level US and Russian officials of the Biden administration.
Lavrov described the meeting as “constructive” while also acknowledging the sorry state of US-Russia relations. “The conversation seemed to me constructive. There is an understanding of the need to overcome the unhealthy situation that developed between Moscow and Washington in previous years,” he said, according to the Russian news agency Tass.
According to a State Department readout of the meeting, Blinken told Lavrov that the US “sought a more stable and predictable relationship with Moscow.” But the Biden administration’s actions against Russia do not suggest it is seeking a “stable” relationship. In recent months the US has implemented a slew of sanctions on Russia, expelled diplomats, and stoked Russia-Ukraine tensions.
Blinken also expressed “deep concern” to Lavrov over the Ukraine situation and Russia’s actions against US-state media outlets Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Russia recently fined RFE/RL for violating a “foreign agent” law, which is likely what Blinken was referring to. US state media outlets were made to register as foreign agents in Russia in 2017 after Russian state media outlets being forced to do so in the US.
Lavrov said during the meeting that he confirmed Moscow’s willingness to start a dialogue with Washington on several issues. “Today we confirmed our proposal to start a dialogue, considering all aspects, all factors affecting strategic stability: nuclear, non-nuclear, offensive, defensive. I have not seen a rejection of such a concept, but experts still have to work on it,” he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to meet face-to-face with President Biden sometime this summer.