Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley met his Russian counterpart for about six hours Wednesday in a “productive” meeting in Helsinki at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Russia.
“When military leaders of great powers communicate, the world is a safer place,” Milley said after his meeting with Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
The meeting covered a “variety of topics on issues worldwide,” said Col. Dave Butler, Milley’s spokesman. The discussion was “military focused” and “serious,” he added.
“Both generals display mutual respect for each other, though both have taken the opportunity to quip or joke on occasion.”
The meeting took place at the Finnish government’s Koningstedt residence in Vantaa, 25 miles north of the Finnish capital, amid a prolonged period of elevated tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Despite the ongoing and occasionally contentious disagreements between the US and Russia on Ukraine, cyberattacks, and the Arctic, the purpose of the meeting was to improve dialogue and deconfliction between the two militaries.
In recent months, the Biden administration has pressured Russian President Vladimir Putin to crack down on a surge in cyberattacks and ransomware attacks emanating from Russian soil, especially after the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack that shut down America’s largest fuel pipeline. But the efforts, including when President Joe Biden met Putin in June, have yielded little results, with no indication that Putin has reined in cyberattacks coming from Russia.
The US has also warned that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2022 midterm elections. In August, CNN reported that the Biden administration is receiving regular intelligence reports of evolving and ongoing efforts to interfere in US elections, despite Biden raising the issue with Putin in person.
“It’s a pure violation of our sovereignty,” Biden said at the time.
In April, the White House unveiled a sweeping set of new sanctions against Russia for election interference in 2020, cyberattacks, and its ongoing occupation of Crimea. Those measures added to an already broad array of sanctions against Russia following its 2014 invasion of the Ukrainian territory. At the time, Russia was conducting a military exercise near Ukraine that saw the largest build up of forces on the country’s borders since the occupation of Crimea.
In a call between Biden and Putin one month after their June meeting, the American president said they had established a more direct means of communication, and that he expected Putin to act when cyberattacks emanate from Russia. Asked if there would be additional consequences for Russia, Biden said, “Yes.”