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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House progressives have a message for President Biden ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin: talking is good.

Driving the news: Fifteen members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are writing to Biden on Wednesday to encourage him to work with Putin on a range of issues, from arms control to climate change, Axios has learned.

  • “In these talks, we hope that you will prioritize ways that the United States and Russia can work together to reduce tensions in areas of dispute and cooperate on areas of global importance,” wrote Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the CPC chairperson, and 14 others.
  • “The U.S. and Russia combined hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads. We believe that armed conflict between Russia and the United States would be a catastrophe for both countries, for Europe, our allies, and for the world.”

Why it matters: The Democratic Party, including many of its progressive members, spent the Trump years arguing for a more assertive approach toward Russia.

  • They criticized Donald Trump for not dealing with President Putin more harshly, amid allegations the former president had been co-opted by his counterpart.
  • The CPC letter indicates some Democrats want to revert to a foreign policy that seeks to engage — and not antagonize — Russia.

Flashback: During the 2012 campaign, President Obama mocked his opponent, now-Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), for arguing that Russia posed a serious threat to America.

  • He said the “1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”
  • During Trump’s presidency, many Democrats, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, apologized to Romney.

Go deeper

Jun 14, 2021 - World

Putin denies Russia is behind cyberattacks ahead of Biden summit

In an exclusive interview with NBC's "Today," Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia is waging cyber warfare against the United States and refused to guarantee opposition leader Alexei Navalny — whose name he would not say — will leave prison alive.

Why it matters: Cyberattacks by Russian intelligence and Russian-speaking criminal groups, as well as the Kremlin's attempted assassination and jailing of Navalny, are among the topics President Biden is expected to raise at his Geneva summit with Putin on Wednesday.

Jun 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Inside Biden's Putin prep

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Leon Neal (WPA Pool)/Getty Images

President Biden assembled a group of outside Russia experts — including former Trump officials — to brief him for his summit with President Vladimir Putin, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: The previously unreported session demonstrates the extent to which Biden wants to be well prepared, drawing on the experience of officials with first-hand knowledge of the onetime KGB colonel’s tactics and tricks.

Jun 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Putin, Biden talk tough ahead of summit

Vladimir Putin speaks to NBC's Keir Simmons in Moscow. Photo: Maxim Blinov/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Sending a bearish signal for Wednesday's summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an aggressive preview interview to NBC News, denying cyber-hacking and portraying suspects in the Capitol riot as political prisoners.

Why it matters: This is looking like the rare head of state sit-down where no amount of diplomatic fluff can paper over the gulf between the two countries.

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