The last known time that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu was on February 18, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley last spoke to the Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov on February 11, CNN previously reported.
“Over the past month, Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley have sought, and continue to seek, calls with their Russian counterparts. Minister Shoigu and General Gerasimov have so far declined to engage. We continue to believe that engagement between US and Russian defense leaders is critically important at this time,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
The US military has maintained a deconfliction phone line with Russia’s military, which the Pentagon says has been tested daily but has not been used for any substantive reasons. The reason for the deconfliction line is to try to avoid any miscalculations that could escalate Russia’s war with Ukraine that’s on the doorstep of NATO territory.
The US believes that Russia’s refusal to hold high-level meetings is due to concerns at the Kremlin that the encounters would risk a tacit admission that an abnormal situation exists in Ukraine, according to the US readout.
While the heads of state of several US allies — including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — have spoken with Putin since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last month, Biden has not done so.