CIA Director Warns Russia Against Use of Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine

William J. Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, met with his Russian counterpart in Turkey on Monday to warn Russia against the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, a White House spokesman said.

The National Security Council said Mr. Burns’s meeting in Ankara was not in any way to negotiate or to discuss any settlement of the war in Ukraine. Ukraine was briefed in advance on the trip, the spokesman said.

President Biden has insisted that Ukraine, and not the United States, will dictate if and when negotiations commence to end the war. But a disagreement has emerged at the highest levels of the United States government over whether to press Ukraine to seek a diplomatic end to the war with Russia, with America’s top general urging in closed-door meetings that Ukraine should negotiate to cement its recent gains.

Mr. Burns also planned in the meeting to raise the matter of Americans detained in Russia, the National Security Council said.

Kommersant, a Russian business daily newspaper, reported on Monday that the Russian delegation in Ankara was headed by Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the country’s foreign intelligence service.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, confirmed the meeting to Tass, a Russian state news service. The meeting had been initiated by the United States, he said, but would not disclose the topics discussed. A C.I.A. spokeswoman declined to comment; the agency never comments on the director’s travel.

Russian and Ukrainian officials have made separate public comments in recent weeks about potential peace negotiations, more than six months after their last known direct talks fell apart. But U.S. officials have said that they do not believe talks will begin soon and that both sides think continued fighting, for now, will strengthen their eventual negotiating positions.

American and European leaders see their goal for now as keeping the war contained to Ukraine and deterring President Vladimir V. Putin from using a tactical nuclear weapon or another weapon of mass destruction. Mr. Putin has denied that Moscow was preparing to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, but senior American officials say that senior Russian military leaders have recently discussed the possibility of using a tactical nuclear weapon in the country.

The Biden administration has been trying to negotiate a prisoner swap with Russia to bring home the W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned on espionage charges. But with no reported breakthroughs — and extraordinary tensions between the two countries over the war in Ukraine — a public pressure campaign has intensified.

Ms. Griner has been detained in Russia since February after she flew into an airport near Moscow with a small amount of hashish oil in her luggage. She was sentenced in August to nine years in prison.

In August, American and Russian officials said they would use a special channel set up by Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin at their meeting in Geneva last year to negotiate over Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan. U.S. officials have declined to divulge details of that channel. The Biden administration has offered to release Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States, for the freedom of the two Americans.

Mr. Burns has been dispatched before to interact with Russian officials over Ukraine. Before Mr. Putin ordered the full-scale invasion in February, Mr. Burns flew to Moscow, in November 2021, to tell Russian officials that the United States knew of the Russian plans and would forcefully respond to any invasion. Mr. Burns spoke to Mr. Putin by video, who was in Sochi at the time.

Julian E. Barnes and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *