- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2021

Rep. Michael T. McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Monday prodded President Biden to make the release of two American detainees a precondition for his meeting next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. McCaul made the demand and chided the White House’s posture toward the Kremlin during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s testimony before the committee.

“I’ve repeatedly said that Vladimir Putin is not our friend,” Mr. McCaul said during his opening remarks, in which he cited recent cyberattacks on U.S. companies that have been attributed to Russia and the two American detainees in Russia, Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan.

“Yet late last month, the Biden administration made the baffling assertion that waiving sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, a Russian Gazprom subsidiary, and its CEO and corporate officers is somehow in the U.S. ‘national interest,’” Mr. McCaul said. “Let me be clear, allowing a Russian malign interest project to be build that will enrich Putin, give him greater strength in Europe, and further endanger Ukraine is absolutely not in our U.S. national interest.”

He urged Mr. Blinken to call for the release of Mr. Reed and Mr. Whelan as a precondition to the summit, saying the opportunity should not go to waste.

“It is my hope this summit will provide at least some good,” he said.

The White House is preparing for a June 16 summit with Mr. Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, during Mr. Biden’s first trip abroad. The president agreed to the Putin summit to  “restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship,” according to the White House.

Mr. McCaul said the meeting rewarded Mr. Putin.

“This sends a very powerful and very dangerous message,” the congressman said.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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