Moscow and Washington are in talks to create a joint cyber security working group, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Thursday, citing Andrey Krutskikh, a special presidential envoy on cyber security.
“The talks are underway … different proposals are being exchanged, nobody denies the necessity of holding the talks and of having such contacts,” Krutskikh said, according to RIA.
Svetlana Lukash, a Russian official who was at the Hamburg summit, said earlier this month that Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed to discuss cyber security questions, either via the United Nations or as part of a working group.
However, intelligence and security officials in the U.S. and Europe told Reuters on Thursday they were not participating in the talks, which they said were confined to mid-level political officials.
One of the officials, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity, said cooperation on cybersecurity was a “pipe dream” while Russia continues to deny that it hacked last year’s U.S. presidential election, as three U.S. intelligence agencies concluded publicly in January.
On an Air Force One flight home from Europe last weekend, Thomas Bossert, Trump’s top counterterrorism advisor, told reporters it would be premature to suggest that the U.S.would be talking to Russia about a possible cyber security “partnership.”
“A partnership suggests that you’ve reached a place where you believe that you have a trusted relationship and you’ve come to some common agreement on ideals and goals and behaviors,” he said.
“I don’t believe that the United States and Russia have come to that point yet in cyberspace,” Bossert said. “And until we do, we wouldn’t have the conversation about partnership. But we had to have a dialogue, and that’s where we’ll start.”
Trump said earlier this month he had discussed the idea of creating such a group with Putin at a summit of the Group of 20 nations in Germany.
Senior U.S. Republicans greeted the idea with incredulity, saying Moscow could not be trusted, and Trump later appeared to back away, saying in a post on Twitter: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t.”
(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk, Vladimir Soldatkin, Ayesha Rascoe and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Andrew Osborn, John Walcott and Bernadette Baum)