Dunford: Meeting with Gerasimov does not mean a change in U.S. policy

24 February 2017 13:30 (UTC+04:00)

By Kamila Aliyeva

Meeting with Russian army's General Staff Valery Gerasimov in Azerbaijan does not mean the change in U.S. policy towards Russia, the U.S. Marine Corps General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford stated, RIA Novosti reported.

"There is a law [in the U.S.] which prevents our cooperation in the military sphere," said Dunford at the Brookings Institution in Washington, referring to the decision of the previous administration of Barack Obama to reduce such contacts.

"The meeting with my Russian counterpart last week took place not in the context of any changes in policy and had no relation to the U.S. administration," he added.

Last week Russian and American top military officers have made an attempt to reopen a military dialogue between the countries. Dunford had a meeting with Gerasimov last week in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.

It marked the first time when the face-to-face meeting between military chiefs from Washington and Moscow has been held since 2014. 

The two sides “exchanged their views on the state of U.S.-Russian military relations and of the international security situation in Europe, the Middle East, and other key regions,” the Defense Department said in a statement after the meeting.

Defense officials said that American and Russian officials would continue to try to deconflict their efforts in Syria and that the two generals had agreed to “enhance communications” on such efforts.

A Pentagon said ahead of the meeting that discussions would focus on “the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crisis.”

As the Russian Defense Ministry stated earlier, the parties have identified the vector work to improve the safety of military operations of the Russian Federation and the United States, to reduce tensions and risks of incidents.

The meeting took many months and great efforts to arrange and its importance is a matter of debates for military experts.

Some experts see strengthening the communication between the American and Russian militaries as a very important step, given the proximity with which they operate in Syria, the Black Sea and the Baltic region, among other potential flash points.

In any case, this meeting may become a useful step in reducing the risks of confrontation and perhaps in laying the groundwork to eventually overcome some policy differences. 

Meanwhile, U.S. president seems to be satisfied with the outcomes of first contacts between Russian and American sides. 

Trump is “pleased” with the results of first talks between officials of the new administration in Washington and Russia, White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer said at a press briefing on Thursday.

The spokesperson was referring to the meeting of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Germany as well as to the meeting of Dunford and his Russian counterpart Gerasimov in Azerbaijan.

Spicer added that the discussions that took place recently were “productive.” He also touched upon the potential meeting of the two presidents, however there are no updates on it. 

U.S.-Russian ties plummeted to their lowest point since the Cold War in recent years amid opposition over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. However, U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly spoken of his desire to restore the ties which have been strained recently.

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Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva

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