The last time the defense ministers of the two countries spoke was on February 18. Since then, the United States has repeatedly reported unsuccessful attempts to contact Sergei Shoigu to discuss the situation, including around Ukraine
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the Pentagon.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the telephone conversations and said that they were initiated by the American side. “Topical issues of international security were discussed, including the situation in Ukraine”, — said the defense department.
The talks between the two ministers were the first since the beginning of the Russian special operation in Ukraine. Earlier, the heads of the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defense communicated on February 18, they held telephone conversations. Then Austin called on Shoigu to “de-escalate” around Ukraine, in particular to “the return of Russian troops that surrounded Ukraine to their places of permanent deployment”.
That conversation took place against the backdrop of an escalation in the situation in the Donbass: on February 17, Ukraine and the republics of the DPR and LPR accused each other of shelling. Prior to this, each of the parties stated that the other was transferring equipment and military forces to the line of contact. The situation escalated against the backdrop of reports from Western media, as well as from the US and British authorities about the threat of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
After Russia launched a special operation in Ukraine on February 24, Austin tried several times to contact Shoigu, but to no avail. On March 24, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby first reported on Austin's unsuccessful attempts to contact his Russian colleague against the background of the unfolding special operation. According to him, over the course of a month, the leadership of the Russian Defense Ministry several times refused the American side, which appealed to dialogue. Both Austin and the head of the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, General Mark Milley, tried to contact Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov.
On April 7, Austin himself said that he could not contact Shoigu, which was extremely disappointing. According to him, the Russian Defense Ministry has not entered into contacts with the Pentagon since mid-February. According to Austin, he and Millie “often” appealed to Shoigu and Gerasimov, but there was no answer.
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Washington has repeatedly stated that contacts between high-ranking military leaders are necessary to avoid unnecessary escalation.
Moscow and Washington maintain contact to resolve conflicts through a direct telephone line, but its functionality is limited. The Pentagon called it a “tactical mechanism” that avoids miscalculations, especially when it comes to protecting NATO airspace or territory. According to a representative of the US defense department, this communication channel was not created to “just call and grumble for any reason.”
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