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Biden Proposes A Summit To Putin On Their 2nd Call

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

There has already been a lot of tension between the United States and Russia this year - election interference, hacking and now an increase in Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. These are some of the things that could come up if President Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And that meeting could happen in the coming months. Here with more, White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe.

Hey there.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.

KELLY: So it could happen. Do we know when it might happen?

RASCOE: That is not clear yet. Today, they had their phone call, their second phone call since Biden took office. And the White House said that after that, Biden did broach the idea of a summit - a third country, presumably a neutral place. We haven't heard yet from Moscow how - about the reaction to this idea. If it were to happen, it would obviously be a huge moment for the Biden presidency. I was at that 2018 meeting between former President Donald Trump and Putin in Helsinki, Finland, where Trump notoriously seemed to side with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies when it came to election interference.

KELLY: Yeah, I was there in Helsinki too. And you and I will both recall that the former president was criticized for the words he used and also for the tone that he took with Putin at that meeting and at others. The Biden administration has said it plans a very different approach. What are you watching for when these two leaders do get together?

RASCOE: There are a number of tensions, as you said earlier, including on hacking and Ukraine. The White House is signaling that it doesn't expect for those to go away overnight. Here's what White House press secretary Jen Psaki said today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEN PSAKI: Our approach to our relationship with Russia is one where we certainly expect the relationship to remain a challenge. We expect there will be continued, difficult conversations, and we are prepared to confront those.

RASCOE: The words of the day from the administration seem to be predictable and stable. That's what they say they want from the relationship with Russia. Psaki said they're not looking for trust, but they don't want to have an adversarial relationship with Russia.

KELLY: Although, U.S.-Russia relations have a long history of being anything but predictable and stable.

RASCOE: Yes (laughter).

KELLY: So how realistic is that?

RASCOE: Well, I talked with Heather Conley, a former State Department official during the Bush administration who is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And I asked her exactly that - whether the administration would be able to achieve that predictability and stability. And here's what she said.

HEATHER CONLEY: They won't because the Kremlin's policies is based on unpredictability and using tactical opportunism to get gain.

RASCOE: And she said they want to force the U.S. to come to the table to negotiate, so they take these opportunities, and they try to be unpredictable. So this is a very difficult task that the Biden administration has set out for itself.

KELLY: Ayesha, before I let you go, this buildup that we referenced - buildup of Russian troops on its border with Ukraine and in Crimea - did that come up in today's call?

RASCOE: It did come up, and Biden stressed that the U.S. has an unwavering commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and called for Russia to de-escalate tensions.

KELLY: All right, that is White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe.

Thank you.

RASCOE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOL HAMMOND AND DUNCAN FORBES'S "DAYS WITHOUT END") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.