The Russian military has reportedly offered the US Armed Forces its cooperation in rebuilding the ravaged nation of Syria, according to a report by Reuters citing a US government memo.
According to the report, Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia's General Staff of the Armed Forces, contacted US Marine General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on July 19, offering Russia's cooperation in rebuilding Syria and repatriating refugees back to the country. This is the first time such a proposal has been reported, but the details have not yet been disclosed.
"The proposal argues that the Syrian regime lacks the equipment, fuel, other material and funding needed to rebuild the country in order to accept refugee returns," the memo reads.
"The United States will only support refugee returns when they are safe, voluntary and dignified," the memo reads. It also stipulates that the US would only cooperate in the event that Syria's seven-year civil war could be brought to a resolution, and UN-supervised elections, among other terms, could be guaranteed in the country.
Interestingly, despite the fact that the memo is attributed to the "government," the office of General Dunford nevertheless declined to comment on communications with his Russian counterpart.
"In accordance with past practice, both Generals have agreed to keep the details of their conversations private," spokesperson Captain Paula Dunn told the reporters.
The US and Russian military have a private hotline communications channel in order to avoid unwanted military collisions in Syria. However, this latest report shows that the channel might also be used to discuss matters that are not strictly military in nature, Reuters notes.
During the summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the talks were focused on "how we might get the [Syrian] refugees back," in the words of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"Russian diplomats and other officials have also been engaging in an aggressive campaign to describe the initiative in other capitals and to insinuate that it is an outcome of the US-Russia meeting in Helsinki, which it is not, repeat not," the memo read.
Thank you, anonymous source; now we all totally understand that any future US-Russia cooperation in Syria is not a result of the Helsinki summit.
Following the summit, Trump came under fire from his opponents, who claimed that Trump should have pressed Putin over alleged Russian meddling in American elections. Democrats were also frustrated by not knowing what the two presidents discussed in private, and some Democrats even considered subpoenaing Trump's interpreter to testify before Congress — the idea that was later dismissed, as critics pointed out it would have harmed the diplomatic efforts of US presidents in the future.
The Kremlin and Russian Defense Ministry were not immediately available to comment.