Military chief Makarov in Washington to discuss global 'hotspots'
In an effort to align Russian and US positions on global hotspots, Russia's Chief of General Staff begins a three-day visit to Washington, where he will discuss the increasingly tense geopolitical situation with America's top-ranked military commander.
The wrapping up of military operations in Afghanistan is of primary concern for Russia, where the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking out of the Central Asian country remains an immediate concern.
"In particular, at the upcoming meeting we are planning to discuss the situation in Afghanistan,” Gen. Nikolai Makarov told reporters. “The withdrawal of Coalition troops is scheduled for 2014, and we are not indifferent to how the situation will evolve near our borders."
Russia’s top military commander said US plans to build a controversial missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, which President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama discussed during their last meeting, will also dominate the talks.
"We are hoping to continue candid talks over missile defense,” he said. “In their joint statement after meeting in Los Cabos (Putin and Obama met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Mexico in June) the Russian and US presidents stated that…the joint search for solutions to the missile defense debate will continue."
"We are prepared for continuing this conversation," the Russian general stressed.
Makarov also said he and US General Martin Dempsey, the highest-ranking US commander, will discuss the consequences of the so-called Arab Spring, where the increasingly turbulent situation in Syria continues to hamper the peace process.
Meanwhile, Russia's top military officer said the meetings will also consider "the situation in the Asian Pacific region, where the United States has paid more and more interest lately," he noted.
In June, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced US plans to significantly boost its naval presence in the Asia Pacific, an announcement that raised eyebrows in Russia and China.
“Make no mistake…the United States military is rebalancing and brings enhanced capabilities to this vital region,” Panetta said.
The Russian General Staff finds its regular meetings with the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff particularly useful as a means for finding solutions to pressing problems, Makarov said.
"Essentially, our meetings fulfill the instructions of the Russian and US presidents who have agreed to set up an ad hoc group on military relations,” the general stressed. “Direct dialogue between the two military chiefs allows to discuss existing problems frankly and outline their solutions."
The two countries' top military commanders hold meetings once a year, alternating between venues in Russia and the United States.
The last meeting was held in St. Petersburg in 2011.