House Defense Budget
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifies before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense during a hearing for the Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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U.S., Russian defense chiefs speak for 1st time since invasion

20 Comments
By LOLITA C. BALDOR

Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday after months of refusing direct contact with his American counterpart. But officials said the call didn’t appear to signal any change in Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

A senior Defense Department official said Friday that while Austin believes the hour-long conversation was important in the effort to keep lines of communication open, it didn't resolve any “acute issues” or lead to any change in what the Russian are doing or saying as the war enters week 12.

The call — initiated by Austin —- marked the highest level American contact with a Russian official since the war began in late February. Over the past several months, Pentagon officials have repeatedly said that Russian leaders declined to take calls from Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This is the first conversation between Austin and Shoygu since Feb. 18, a week before the war started. Another senior official said Friday that Milley is expected to also reach out to his counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russian chief of the general staff.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that Austin “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication.”

Several officials described the call as a positive step, but said there was no clear reason why the Russians decided to go ahead with the conversation on Friday. The defense official said that the U.S. hopes it will serve as a springboard for future conversation and that it appeared that Austin's request for future communication was received. The official characterized the tenor of the call as “professional” but provided no other details on its content.

U.S. and other Western officials have described Russia's fight in Ukraine, particularly the effort to wrest greater control over the eastern Donbas region as more than two weeks behind schedule, and failing to make consistent progress.

On Friday, Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross a river in the east, in what Ukrainian, British and U.S. officials said is another sign of Moscow’s struggle to salvage a war gone awry.

Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby. The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers.”

The battle for the Donbas, which has heated up since Russia's bid to take Kyiv failed, has become a daily grind, as towns and villages change hands.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

20 Comments
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Having people below Putin accept calls is a good sign. Doubt it is anything more than a delay tactic. That's a typical Russian war method. They like the idea of taking a little and holding it so long that people forget they took something.

As long as one uninvited Russian soldier is inside Ukraine from the 2010 boundaries, it is too many. They should carry seeds in their pockets. Pretty flower seeds.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Good that communications are open. This will be key to ending the hostilities (along with the Russians returning to their own country, of course)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If there is no war, no weapon sales. The Afghan market is dried up, Taiwan is pretty much supplied, that only leaves Australia, Saudi, japan and…UKRAINE!

russia is stubborn, us is after world domination, I guess it is up to China.

but communication is good…

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

If there is no war, no weapon sales.

Well, you can thank mother Russia & Putin for the increase in weapon sales then

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This is how it went:

Hi, How you doing?

Well, Not as expected!

I see, How can we help?

Well, send me some of these Javelins.

Oh, we have been, haven't they arrived yet?

well, they did, but on the other side!!!!!!!!

Oh, sorry, it must have been a technical error or a glitch in the delivery system computers.

Well, we thought we took care of that back in 2020 when out tech people hacked your computers!!

I see, they must have forgotten to change the delivery codes I think, I'll make sure you get some soon.

Yes, please.

Certainly.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Good that you’re calling , because it would be suspicious if I would, and thanks that you haven’t forgotten your long term friend Sergei. Lloyd , can you quickly take me out of here and then maybe have a nice advisory job at the Pentagon for me, I’m already under quite a fire now and I guess I won’t make it some more months here. Please, quickly…

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Defense ministers contacting each other would be good if the call is not superficial, insincere or just for diplomacy sake.

Wonder the outcome would be fruitful or just casual exchange of hollow words..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes. It would be interesting to hear how many times the Russians used nyet in that one-hour conversation.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Shares in US arm manufacturers increased their value by around 60% in two months after Russia entered Ukraine. Fact.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Just be thankful that putin hasn't officially announced war - not yet anyway

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Rodney - Russia didn’t have to invade Ukraine. If they didn’t, then the arms manufacturers wouldn’t have increased in value like that. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Kyo wa - I think the world would be a lot more thankful if Russian forces went back home.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It seems like a reestablishing of a deconfliction line at high level. I think it's a sign of some kind of a major escalation coming up, and they want to prevent the situation from spinning out of control militarily.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Shares in US arm manufacturers would have increased their value by around 0% if Russia had not entered Ukraine.

Fact.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I hope everyone realises that the idea that Russian forces will have to go home before any negotiations begin is childish and unrealistic. It is not the way the world works. Russia may well bargain some of the conquered land in exchange for concessions from Ukraine, but let's be clear: Russia will never cede the Crimea to the Ukraine, and Russia will only cede the territory to the north of the Crimea up to the Dnieper if the Ukraine signs a promise to allow the free flow of water along the North Crimean Canal, which the Ukraine cut off in 2014 and which has caused hardship in the Crimea.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

The call — initiated by Austin 

I wonder this call has anything to do with the NATO VIPs currently trapped in the steelworks with the Azov Battalion.

If in the next few days you hear reports of Russia "wounded" soldiers to evacuate on "humanitarian" grounds you'll know a backroom deal was struck.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It seems like a reestablishing of a deconfliction line at high level. I think it's a sign of some kind of a major escalation coming up, and they want to prevent the situation from spinning out of control militarily.

Eh, not so much. Having regular communications with foreign counterparts is a great way to judge their psychological situation. Are they calm and rational during the call? Are they just reading a script with official talking points or speaking from their heart? Do they simply repeat the same answer over and over, word for word, basically repeating official propaganda? Or is there a reasoned give and take? Does your counterpart look comfortable and calm or are they angry looking? What is the tone of their voice? Foreign governments can't peek behind the curtains to see the private discussions of their adversaries but a face to face meeting, even on something like Zoom (a classified version of course) gives insights into the mental state of your adversary that can tell you if they seem afraid of something or confident. That can be priceless information during a crisis.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hope everyone realises that the idea that Russian forces will have to go home before any negotiations begin is childish and unrealistic. It is not the way the world works. Russia may well bargain some of the conquered land in exchange for concessions from Ukraine, but let's be clear: Russia will never cede the Crimea to the Ukraine, and Russia will only cede the territory to the north of the Crimea up to the Dnieper if the Ukraine signs a promise to allow the free flow of water along the North Crimean Canal, which the Ukraine cut off in 2014 and which has caused hardship in the Crimea.

Russia will not negotiate seriously unless and until its forces are being broadly defeated and pushed back by Ukrainian forces. Just as with the Russo-Japanese war they won't go to the bargaining table until they are getting their butts kicked.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Btw, if you have time and are so inclined read Lloyd Austin's military resume. Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu never served a day in any branch of the military. He is an engineer who went from university to engineering public works projects. He became Minister of Emergency Services where he gained much public exposure. From there he became Governor or Moscow Oblast and now Minister of Defense. By comparison Lloyd Austin has commanded an Airborne Battalion, the XO of a brigade in the 10th Mountain Division, J-3 Staff, Asst Commander of 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division leading them during Operation OIF. From there he led the 10th Mountain Div as their commanding General in Afghanistan while simultaneously servicing as Commander Joint Task Force 180. He promoted and took command of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the Multi-National Corps - Iraq, becoming the second highest ranking commander in Iraq and eventually Commanding General US Forces in Iraq. His career culminated with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Unlike his Russian counterpart Mr. Austin has had a full career in the military including years leading troops in combat. His Russian and Chinese counterparts have no combat experience.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday after months of refusing direct contact with his American counterpart.

Took them long enough

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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