U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan announced Tuesday he will return to the United States this week for “consultations” with American officials at a critical juncture in the diplomatic relationship between Washington and Moscow.
Sullivan, an appointee of former President Donald Trump who previously served as deputy secretary of State, said in a statement that he believes “it is important for me to speak directly with my new colleagues in the Biden administration in Washington about the current state of bilateral relations between the United States and Russia.”
“Also, I have not seen my family in well over a year, and that is another important reason for me to return home for a visit,” Sullivan said, adding that he would “return to Moscow in the coming weeks before any meeting” between President Joe Biden and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
The news of Sullivan’s travel plans, released by the U.S. embassy in Russia, comes after the Biden administration imposed new sanctions on Russia’s government and expelled 10 Russian diplomats last week — measures designed to punish Moscow for its attempted U.S. election interference, SolarWinds cyberespionage campaign, occupation of Crimea and other malign actions.
Russia responded to the sanctions by expelling 10 U.S. diplomats, while the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that eight U.S. officials — including Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas — would not be permitted entry into Russia.
Further complicating tensions between the two countries is the reportedly rapidly deteriorating health of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who will be admitted to a prison hospital amid the third week of a hunger strike to protest his treatment behind bars. National security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Sunday that Russia would face unspecified “consequences” should Navalny die.
Biden most recently spoke with Putin in mid-April and proposed a summit meeting to take place “in a third country” in the coming months. The White House has repeatedly emphasized its desire for a “stable and predictable” relationship with Moscow as it refocuses U.S. foreign policy away from the Middle East toward Russia and China.