Russia reveals details of rare contact with US military chief
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has had rare direct contact with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Russian military reported on Friday.
According to the short readout, the two top officials “discussed issues of international security, including the situation in Ukraine” over the phone.
The last phone call between Shoigu and Austin was reported in May, with both sides giving away few details about it. It was the first direct conversation between the officials since Russia sent troops into Ukraine in late February.
Sources cited by Reuters revealed at the time that the call lasted for about an hour and failed to solve any specific matter. The exchange was initiated by Washington, Russian media reported.
The Pentagon confirmed the contact with the Russian defense minister on Friday, stating that its chief had “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication” amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Bilateral contacts between Russian and American officials have been on the decline for years and have become very rare since the Ukraine crisis, according to both governments.
Washington claims that Moscow’s military campaign was unprovoked and has pledged to help Kiev “for as long as it takes” to defeat the Russian troops. The administration of US President Joe Biden has declared Russia’s strategic defeat as a foreign policy goal.
Russia accused the US of escalating tensions over Ukraine to a point at which it had no option but military action. According to Moscow, NATO was conducting a clandestine expansion into Ukraine, compromising Russian national security, and repeatedly refused to address Moscow’s concerns.
The US has imposed numerous economic sanctions on Russia. It also has been arming and funding the Ukrainian government. In late September, the Biden administration announced the country would provide an additional $1.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine. The total value of assistance provided under Biden has hit nearly $17 billion.