Top US, Russian Military Chiefs Speak by Phone Amid Tensions Over Ukraine

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
November 23, 2021 Updated: November 23, 2021

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley spoke by phone with top Russian military officer, Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, on Tuesday amid growing tensions between the nations over Ukraine.

According to a readout of the call released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the pair discussed “discussed several security-related issues of concern.”

The phone call is “a continuation of communication between both leaders to ensure risk reduction and operational de-confliction,” it states.

“In accordance with past practice, both have agreed to keep the specific details of their conversation private,” the readout notes.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a separate statement that they “discussed the ongoing issues of international security,” without elaborating.

It comes amid escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington over reports of a troop build-up at Ukraine’s border, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggesting earlier this month that Russia may be “attempting to rehash” its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

The United States is “concerned by reports of unusual Russian military activity,” Blinken said, referring to claims made by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry this month that about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed close to its border with Russia.

Blinken said the situation is been monitored “very closely.”

Russia has accused the West of flaring tensions over the matter.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that Western media reports of plans by Russia to invade Ukraine are an “empty and groundless” escalation of tensions, Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported.

His remarks came after CNN, citing unnamed sources, reported that the Biden administration is considering providing more weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces, including Javelin anti-tank missiles and stinger air defense missiles, in preparation for a possible Russian invasion.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy made similar remarks earlier this month after several unnamed sources told Bloomberg that U.S. officials have briefed their EU allies on their concerns of a potential military operation by Russia in Ukraine.

Russia has never planned on invading Ukraine, and won’t do so “unless provoked,” Polyanskiy said when pressed on the issue. “Never planned, never did.”

“Never going to do it unless we’re provoked by Ukraine, or by somebody else,” or if Russia’s national sovereignty is threatened, he added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that the Biden administration had “serious concerns” over Russia’s military presence on Ukraine’s border.

The administration has called on “Moscow to de-escalate tensions” she said.

Since 2014, Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists have been fighting in eastern Ukraine after Russia illegally invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The Epoch Times has contacted the Biden administration for comment.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.