CIA chief Burns meets Russian counterpart, warns against using nuclear weapons

CIA Director William Burns has met with Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service chief in Turkey, delivering a message regarding the consequences of Russian use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Russian ICBM (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Russian ICBM
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

US Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns is in Ankara to speak with his Russian intelligence counterpart to convey a message on the consequences of any use of nuclear weapons by Russia, a White House official said on Monday.

"He is not conducting negotiations of any kind. He is not discussing settlement of the war in Ukraine," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, adding that Burns will also raise the cases of detained Americans in Russia.

The US-Russian contact in Turkey was first reported by Russia's Kommersant newspaper. It cited an unidentified source as saying that Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service, would attend the talks.

Ties between Washington and Moscow have fallen to their worst in decades since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February. Threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine war have fueled worries about escalation.

"We have been very open about the fact that we have channels to communicate with Russia on managing risk, especially nuclear risk and risks to strategic stability," the White House official said, adding that Ukraine was briefed on the trip in advance.

 William Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, is sworn into his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 24, 2021. (credit: TOM WILLIAMS/POOL VIA REUTERS) William Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, is sworn into his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 24, 2021. (credit: TOM WILLIAMS/POOL VIA REUTERS)

US-Russia confidential talks

News emerged this month that US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has engaged in confidential talks with senior Russian officials, aimed at lowering the risk of a broader war over Ukraine.

The State Department also said the two sides were expected to meet soon and discuss resuming inspections under the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty that have been paused since before Russia's invasion.

Beyond the war, Russia and the United States have a host of outstanding issues to discuss, ranging from the extension of a key nuclear arms reduction treaty and a Black Sea grain deal to a possible US-Russian prisoner swap and the Syrian civil war.