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Pentagon Wants to Set Up Military Backchannels With Russia Amid Ukraine Crisis: Report

CC0 / / Red phone
Red phone - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.02.2022
Tensions between Russia and NATO reached a new post-Cold War high point last week after Moscow kicked off a military operation to demilitarize Ukraine, a client state of the Western bloc. Russia launched the operation after a request for support from the Donbass republics, which have faced weeks of escalating Ukrainian military aggression.
The Pentagon is reportedly seeking to establish backchannels of communications with Moscow amid the crisis in Ukraine.
“Now that Ukrainian airspace is in dispute and being contested and Ukrainian airspace runs right up alongside NATO airspace, we have conveyed to the Russians that we believe a conduit at the operational level is needed…so we can avoid miscalculations,” a senior unnamed Pentagon official familiar with the situation has told Politico.
“And we have not received any response from them in terms of whether they agree, whether they are willing to set something up,” the official said.
The Russian and US militaries already have experience in country-to-country “deconfliction” contacts, with an emergency hotline established in 2015 to avoid incidents between the two countries over Syrian airspace.
New military-to-military contacts over Ukraine would be to allow Russia and the US to tell one another “we’re about to do this, stay the heck out of the way,” the official said.
The communications links are seen as vital amid Western commitments to continue pumping hundreds of millions of dollars in additional military aid, and possibly foreign fighters or mercenaries, into Ukraine.
The lines of contact could be established between Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov and US Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, and at lower levels on down the line, with any sort of battlefield-level mechanism to prevent the violation of ‘red lines’ expected to fall under the jurisdiction of NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe Gen. Tod Wolters, officials say.
One Pentagon official told Politico that the US is flying U2 surveillance aircraft over Ukraine at high altitudes to monitor the situation. “One of the things we don’t want to do is provoke a conflict with the Russians directly.”
That sentiment seems to stand at odds with realities on the ground. On Saturday, the Russian Defence Ministry pointed to the presence of strategic US RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ9A Reaper drones loitering in the Black Sea in an area where 16 Ukrainian gunboats attacked Russian warships during the evacuation of 82 Ukrainian Boarder Guard servicemen who surrendered to Russian forces on Zmiinyi Island. MoD spokesman Igor Konashenkov said there was “a strong likelihood” that these US unmanned aerial vehicles directed the Ukrainian gunboats to attack the Russian ships.
RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle conducts tests over Naval Air Station Patuxent River - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.02.2022
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Russia began a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday, coming to the assistance of its Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republic allies after weeks of intensifying Ukrainian mortar, artillery, sniper and sabotage attacks on militia positions and cities.
The United States and its allies responded by slapping Russian officials, banks, businessmen and several economic sectors with new sanctions, and promising to send nearly a billion dollars in additional arms assistance to Kiev – on top of the $2.5 billion+ already delivered since 2014. Washington and NATO have so far promised to stay out of the conflict directly. However, Ukraine moved Sunday to establish an “international legion” for foreigners wishing to come to the country to fight the Russians. Western countries have also promised to provide Kiev with hundreds of millions of dollars in cash. Observers fear some of this money could be spent by Kiev to hire mercenaries.
On Saturday Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko warned that Kiev’s allies were actively “pushing” the country to keep fighting Russia, and said that each additional day that the conflict continues threatens to turn the country into a foreign-backed “meat grinder.”
Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in the Gomel region - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.02.2022
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