Can CIA meeting and Biden-Xi talks reduce world’s war tensions?

US President Biden met with Chinese President Xi at the same time that CIA Director Bill Burns met with his Russian counterpart.

 US President Joe Biden meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Bali, Indonesia, November 14, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
US President Joe Biden meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Bali, Indonesia, November 14, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)

The US Director of the CIA Bill Burns met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Naryshkin, in Ankara on Monday. This meeting is important because it came as US President Joe Biden met Chinese President Xi Jinping where he said there would be no new “cold war” with China.  

These are important developments because they show that the US could find a way to mend some fences with China, or at least dial back the tensions. It’s worth recalling that the US and China once had much better relations and that those relations became much better under Richard Nixon’s presidency when he was able to work with China during the cold war. Considering US-Russia tensions, the new talks with China could signal China’s decision to create a bit of daylight with Moscow. 

On the other hand, it’s worth looking at what happened in Ankara as well. The US meeting with the Russians there took place a day after Turkey claims that a bombing in Istanbul was an act of terrorism. It’s not clear if that incident overshadowed the meeting, which was obviously planned before the attack. The US is trying to communicate with Russia regarding “risks” in Ukraine which include US citizens detained in Russia and also the “nuclear risk and risks to strategic stability.”  

The US has warned Russia about Moscow’s previous hints at using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The US tamped down any thoughts that the meeting of the intelligence chiefs was related to anything concrete in Ukraine. “[Burns] is not discussing the settlement of the war in Ukraine. He is conveying a message on the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, and the risks of escalation to strategic stability,” the US said.  

Russia recently withdrew from Kherson which it annexed after its invasion of Ukraine in February. However, now Russia is pulling back. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the liberated city on Monday. This is the context of the US-Russia meeting in Turkey.

 CIA DIRECTOR William Burns speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing. During a meeting last year with then-prime minister Naftali Bennett, Burns expressed his concerns regarding Chinese investments in Israel (credit: TASOS KATOPODIS/REUTERS) CIA DIRECTOR William Burns speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing. During a meeting last year with then-prime minister Naftali Bennett, Burns expressed his concerns regarding Chinese investments in Israel (credit: TASOS KATOPODIS/REUTERS)

Why did the meeting take place in Turkey?

Ankara has positioned itself as playing both sides in the Ukraine conflict. On the one hand, it supplied Ukraine with drones, but it also helped create a grain export deal and it is involved in talks with Russia about energy exports. Russia may have seen Ankara as neutral ground, even though Turkey is a member of NATO. It’s not clear if the US would have felt comfortable with a meeting in Russia’s backyard, such as in Central Asia. 

Russian media is interested in the US-China talks which appear to indicate that Moscow is concerned that China may be interested in taking some concrete steps with the US which could weaken Russia’s hand globally.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned US President Joe Biden against a possible conflict, saying the two countries have strong mutual interests, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday after their meeting in Indonesia’s Bali,” Russia’s state-TASS media said. "It is in our own interest to prevent a conflict and avert confrontation," the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Xi as saying.

"China’s and the United States’ economic systems are closely interconnected.”

Chinese President Xi

Could it be that after the US mid-terms that there may be a chance for peace in Ukraine and also a reduction of tensions around China, such as relating to Taiwan and also North Korea? The US and allies such as Japan and South Korea have been angered by North Korea’s increasing firing of missiles. China could get the north to stop its missile tests.

In the wake of the Biden-Xi meeting and the CIA-Russia meeting in Ankara, there will be a need to focus on whether these meetings lead to any changes or if both Moscow and Beijing are merely paying lip service to openness to talks with the US; and they may renege soon.