America’s top military officer on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart in Finland even as U.S. officials struggle to secure basing rights from former Soviet countries bordering Afghanistan for a regional anti-terrorism campaign now that the Taliban are in charge in Kabul.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley met with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, in Helsinki to discuss “regional conflicts, strategic stability, and other operational and strategic issues,” according to Col. David Butler, spokesman for the Joint Staff.
“The meeting was a continuation of talks aimed at improving military leadership communication between the two nations for the purposes of risk reduction and operational de-confliction,” Col. Butler said in a statement.
In accordance with past practice, both military leaders kept the specific details of the conversation private, Col. Butler said.
Following the abrupt U.S. pullout from Afghanistan ordered by President Biden, Pentagon officials have said they will continue to maintain a “robust over-the-horizon” military capability to monitor events in the country now fully under the control of hardline Taliban fighters. But, that goal is contingent on the ability to launch U.S. assets from nearby bases and Moscow is putting obstacles in the way.
Russia told the U.S. not to deploy troops to the former Soviet Central Asian nations following its exit from Afghanistan.
“We told the Americans in a direct and straightforward way that it would change a lot of things not only in our perceptions of what’s going on in that important region but also in our relations with the United States,” said Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, according to the AP. “We also have had a frank talk on the subject with our Central Asian allies, neighbors and friends and also other countries in the region that would be directly affected.”
Gen. Milley‘s meeting with his Russian counterpart also comes amid swirling controversy over revelations about his actions in the final days of the Trump administration. The Russian Defense Ministry in a statement characterized Wednesday’s talks as “constructive.”