Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke to his Russian counterpart on Monday for the first time since May, an unnamed U.S. official told Reuters. This call comes as Russia has raised numerous threats of nuclear escalation in its war in Ukraine.
Reuters’ source did not provide any additional information about the call between Milley and Russian military Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and the Department of Defense has not publicly announced the call.
The alleged conversation between the top uniformed military leaders of the U.S. and Russia comes just days after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu raised allegations that Ukraine could set off a radioactive “dirty bomb,” escalating the current war in Ukraine to even greater levels.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had also spoken to his Russian counterpart this weekend for the first time since May, rejected Shoigu’s warning comments and denounced any Russian pretext to deepen their war in Ukraine.
Milley’s call with Gerasimov may have been part of an effort to deescalate tensions with Russia behind the scenes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made several comments in recent weeks about Russia’s willingness to use nuclear weapons if he feels Russia’s territorial integrity is threatened.
Milley has reportedly engaged in other past efforts to reduce tensions between other nuclear-armed nations.
According to the 2021 book “Peril” by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley held calls with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng in October of 2020 and January of 2021. According to the book, Milley assured Li that he would give advanced warning if U.S.-China relations devolved to a point where the U.S. would launch an attack on China. Milley has publicly acknowledged having had conversations with Li, but defended his actions as a “routine” and an acceptable practice “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”