Top U.S. military leaders have not attempted to reach their Russian counterparts in "several weeks" after their previous efforts were rebuffed.
The United States had repeatedly tried to arrange conversations between Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and his Russian counterpart, Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, as well as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, but they have not spoken since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
Milley's spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that the Joint Chiefs haven't reached out to set up a call between Milley and Gerasimov in "several weeks."
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"It's been quite some time — certainly, many weeks — since we've attempted another communication with Minister Shoigu," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday. "And there has not been much interest shown by the Russians in having that conversation."
Milley's last conversation with Gerasimov took place Feb. 11, and Joint Staff spokesman Col. Dave Butler said at the time, "The military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern. In accordance with past practice, both have agreed to keep the specific details of their conversation private."
Austin and his counterpart last spoke a week later, on Feb. 18, and Kirby said at the time, "Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu. Secretary Austin called for de-escalation, the return of Russian forces surrounding Ukraine to their home bases, and a diplomatic resolution."
Less than a week later, Russia began its military invasion of Ukraine.
The Pentagon spokesman explained that the defense attaches at embassies are heavily involved in arranging such calls.
“Normally, you reach out through the policy channels. And you also use the defense attache ... at the embassy. No matter what the country is in question, that senior military officer is a representation of the secretary of defense inside all of our embassies,” Kirby said. “And so they are usually, after working it through policy in terms of the efficacy of doing a call, usually, we rely heavily on the defense attache.”
Austin, in a hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 7, said he and Milley had “frequently reached out to our counterparts in Russia to try to ensure that we maintain a dialogue.”
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Despite being “disappointed” by the lack of Russian engagement, the secretary stated, “It doesn’t mean we’ll stop reaching out to engage them. I think we have to have the ability to talk to the leadership.”
The U.S. and Russia do have a deconfliction line set up, and the U.S. checks the line “once or twice a day … just to make sure when we pick it up, the Russians are answering. So far, they are,” Kirby said previously.