The White House said National Security Adviser Tom Donilon held “comprehensive and constructive” talks Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in preparation for President Obama’s meetings with Mr. Putin later this year.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Mr. Donilon discussed “the full range of bilateral and global issues” with Mr. Putin and other Russian officials in Moscow. She didn’t say whether missile defense or human rights violations were discussed, but both have proven delicate and at times divisive topics between the two nations.
Last year, Mr. Obama was caught in an unguarded moment telling then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have “flexibility” to negotiate with Russia on missile defense after winning reelection in November.
Complicating the U.S. relationship with Russia was the Obama administration’s release Friday of a list of Russian human-rights violators. The State Department opposed the ‘Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012’ when lawmakers approved it last year, but State Department officials have now released a list of Russian officials now subject to visa bans and asset freezes because of the law.
There are 18 people on the list, including 16 related to the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison after allegedly being tortured. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said he was “deeply disappointed” that only 18 persons were added to the sanctions list.
“At a time when citizens and civil society groups are being denied justice across Russia, the United States has a responsibility to show our Russian friends and partners that there can still be accountability and consequences when basic human rights are violated,” Mr. McCain said in a statement. “That’s why robust implementation of the Magnitsky Act is so critical and why [the State Department’s] announcement is so damaging.”
Russian officials responded over the weekend by banning 18 American officials, including a federal judge and several individuals involved with setting national security and detainee policy under President George W. Bush.
Mr. Obama also has been seeking Russian cooperation in ratcheting down North Korea’s military belligerence, and in pressuring Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to step down.