With tensions between Moscow and Washington at higher-than-usual levels, the top military officers of the United States and Russia met for the first time in person this week while attending a NATO meeting of military chiefs in Brussels, diving right into a discussion of “irritants” between the two powers.
The meeting comes at the cusp of President Obama’s second term and when many arms control watchers expect the U.S., with the help of the president’s incoming defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, to press Russia for further nuclear reductions.
In the meeting between Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff, met Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the new chief
of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Dempsey “discussed issues the Russian Federation considers irritants to the relationship,” his spokesman, Col. David Lapan, told the E-Ring.
"We had a productive and candid discussion on a variety of subjects," Dempsey said, on his Facebook page.
The chiefs also discussed “areas of cooperation," including Afghanistan, where Gerasimov served, the so-called Northern Distribution Network of war supplies into Afghanistan, as well as counter-piracy and other issues.
The men previously held an introductory video teleconference in December and plan for regular video meetings about every 90 days, Lapan said.
The U.S. conducts dozens of military exercises and other engagements directly with Russian counterparts each year. Dempsey and Gerasimov discussed holding fewer but better quality events.
While political relations remain cold -- Russian lawmakers recently voted to ban Americans from adoptin
g Russian children, and the GOP presidential nominee painted Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” last year -- military-to-military interactions have increased
in number and depth over recent years. In October, Rear Admiral Mark C. Montgomery, who was deputy director for plans, policy, and strategy at U.S. European Command, said the friendly, near-daily interactions between American and Russian militaries carried on as “all business.”
Long from the Cold War, the thaw continues.
“Gerasimov invited Gen Dempsey to visit Russia in the spring,” Lapan said.