The call lasted about an hour and was at the request of Austin, who used the first call between the two in 84 days to urge Defense Secretary Sergei Shoigu to introduce an “immediate ceasefire,” a short readout said. of the call. The two last spoke on February 18, a week before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
It ends a long period when Russia’s top military leaders repeatedly refused to speak to their American counterparts.
On March 24, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Austin and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, have made and are continuing to make phone calls to Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s top general, but the Russians have so far refused to participate.”
Following the phone call between Austin and Shoigu, Milley is expected to contact his Russian counterpart to see if it’s possible to schedule a meeting, a defense official told CNN, but no meeting is currently scheduled. .
The two haven’t spoken since Feb. 11, a week before Austin and Shoigu’s last phone call.
On March 1, the US and Russia established a line of de-conflict because the two armies operate so close to each other. Some of the Russian attacks in Ukraine have been close to the border with Poland, where US forces are active. As with the de-conflict mechanism that the US and Russia have over Syria, the aim is to avoid any miscalculation or misunderstanding that could lead to an unintended and dangerous escalation.
But while the Pentagon said the line was successfully tested once or twice a day, there has been no top-level communications from the US and Russian militaries until now.
“We haven’t stopped trying [to establish communications] since the last time they spoke, that was right before the invasion, so it’s been a constant effort,” a senior defense official said in a briefing with reporters on Friday.
But the official tempered expectations about the appeal’s impact, saying it would not solve “acute problems” or result in “immediate change” in Russia’s military actions or increasingly hostile rhetoric.