Top US, Russian Generals Speak as Tensions Mount
The top U.S. and Russian generals spoke by phone Tuesday, as tensions along the Russian-Ukrainian border appeared to reach new highs.
Both Washington and Moscow quickly issued readouts of the call between U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and chief of Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov.
According to the U.S. statement, the two generals “discussed several security-related issues of concern.” It further said the call was “a continuation of communication between both leaders to ensure risk reduction and operational de-confliction.”
The U.S. statement also said both sides had agreed to keep details of Tuesday’s call private.
The conversation follows heightened concern about what the U.S. and NATO repeatedly have described as “unusual activity” by Russian forces along Russia’s border with Ukraine and Crimea.
Ukrainian intelligence estimates have put the number of Russian troops along the border at about 90,000.
U.S. officials have declined to comment publicly on the intelligence assessments, but a senior administration official told VOA there are “serious concerns about Russian military activities and harsh rhetoric toward Ukraine.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation, the official said there have been ongoing discussions with Washington’s European partners, with Ukraine and also with Russia.
“We have demonstrated that the United States is willing to use a number of tools to address harmful Russian actions, and we will not hesitate from making use of those and other tools in the future,” the official added.
On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, criticized the U.S. on its website and compared the situation with Ukraine to tensions with Georgia prior to the 2008 Russian invasion, noting Georgia paid a high price.
Other Russian officials also have complained about recent U.S. military exercises with NATO allies.
Tuesday’s call between the U.S. and Russia comes after the senior-most U.S. and Ukrainian generals spoke twice within a four-day span to “share perspectives and assessments of the evolving security environment in Eastern Europe.”