The US and Russia have established communications channel where the two sides can notify each other of any potential operations that may be in close proximity to avoid any possible miscalculations near Ukraine.
“The Department of the Defense recently established a deconfliction line with the Russian Ministry of Defense on March 1 for the purposes of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation,” a senior statement US defense official said in a. “The United States retains a number of channels to discuss critical security issues with the Russians during a contingency or emergency.”
The communications line is basically an exchange of phone numbers between both sides for quick access. The US side will be run out of the US European Command’s operations center in Stuttgart, Germany, while the Russian side is expected to be coordinated out of the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, a second senior defense official said.
The US had wanted a communications channel because US and Russian troops are now operating on the so-called eastern flank close to Ukraine and Belarus airspace where Russian forces are staging and attacking.
The second official did not know what events would specifically trigger a phone call on either side, but the overall idea is to ensure “we can reduce the risk of miscalculation and potential misunderstanding” given the potential proximity of forces. It was also not immediately clear to what extent NATO aircraft would be included in the agreement. It is also unclear if US and Russian ships are included.
Air operations are particularly concerned because of the high speed and relatively short distances at which encounters could occur given Russian aircraft are operating close to the areas where US troops are in Poland, Romania and the Baltic nations.
The establishment of the agreement is particularly noteworthy because until now Pentagon officials have said they have not had any direct communications with Russian counterparts since the invasion.
There had been an effort to establish the communications line since late last month. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last spoke with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu on Feb.18. The two also spoke one week earlier. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley last spoke to the Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov on Feb. 11.
The US has specifically rejected a no-fly zone over Ukraine saying it would put US pilots into a combat scenario in order to enforce such a plan. But the door is not shutting down on a potential future air humanitarian corridor to guarantee a safe flight of relief supplies hostilities cease, officials say.
More back ground: A deconfliction protocol has existed for several years between US and Russian forces in Syria. For the most part it has worked, although US officials have complained on several occasions the Russians have not given enough advance warning of their operations. The US does not give Russia detailed information but did notify them recently when US aircraft would be operating in a broad area north of Syria.
NBC News first reported the establishment of the deconfliction channel.
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