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NATO chief says Russia talks 'not a sign of weakness'

Jens Stoltenberg says short of improving NATO-Russia ties, 'we need to manage a difficult relationship' with Moscow

Michael Gabriel Hernandez   | 08.06.2021
NATO chief says Russia talks 'not a sign of weakness' NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ( Olivier Hoslet / Pool - Anadolu Agency )

WASHINGTON

Dialogue with Russia is "not a sign of weakness" and is instead crucial to improving the alliance's battered ties with Moscow, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday. 

"We are strong, we are united, and then we can talk to Russia, and we need to talk to Russia to strive for a better relationship," Stoltenberg told reporters at the White House after meeting behind closed doors with US President Joe Biden.

"Even if we don't believe in a better relationship with Russia, we need to manage a difficult relationship with Russia. Arms control, transparency, risk reductions -- all of these issues are important," he added.

The comments come as Biden prepares for his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The June 16 bilateral summit in Geneva, Switzerland is being tacked on to the tail end of Biden's first international trip since he assumed office in January. He will first participate in a G7 summit in the UK from June 11 to 13 and meetings with NATO and EU partners in Brussels on June 14.

The White House has been framing the sit-down as being centered on ensuring "strategic stability" between the global rivals, with much of the talks expected to focus on arms control, nuclear arms reduction and ongoing negotiations to return Iran and the US to full compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The situations in Ukraine and Belarus are also expected to be addressed.

Stoltenberg welcomed "the fact that President Biden will meet all the NATO leaders before he meets" with Putin, adding that he discussed the "importance of arms control and also talking with Russia" during his Oval Office meeting with Biden.

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