Hello, menya zavut Gen. Martin Dempsey

With tensions between Moscow and Washington at higher-than-usual levels, the top military officers of the United States and Russia met for the first time in person this week while attending a NATO meeting of military chiefs in Brussels, diving right into a discussion of “irritants” between the two powers. The meeting comes at the cusp ...

DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen
DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen
DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen

With tensions between Moscow and Washington at higher-than-usual levels, the top military officers of the United States and Russia met for the first time in person this week while attending a NATO meeting of military chiefs in Brussels, diving right into a discussion of “irritants” between the two powers.

The meeting comes at the cusp of President Obama’s second term and when many arms control watchers expect the U.S., with the help of the president’s incoming defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, to press Russia for further nuclear reductions.

In the meeting between Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff, met Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the new chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Dempsey “discussed issues the Russian Federation considers irritants to the relationship,” his spokesman, Col. David Lapan, told the E-Ring.

With tensions between Moscow and Washington at higher-than-usual levels, the top military officers of the United States and Russia met for the first time in person this week while attending a NATO meeting of military chiefs in Brussels, diving right into a discussion of “irritants” between the two powers.

The meeting comes at the cusp of President Obama’s second term and when many arms control watchers expect the U.S., with the help of the president’s incoming defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, to press Russia for further nuclear reductions.

In the meeting between Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff, met Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the new chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Dempsey “discussed issues the Russian Federation considers irritants to the relationship,” his spokesman, Col. David Lapan, told the E-Ring.

"We had a productive and candid discussion on a variety of subjects," Dempsey said, on his Facebook page.

The chiefs also discussed “areas of cooperation," including Afghanistan, where Gerasimov served, the so-called Northern Distribution Network of war supplies into Afghanistan, as well as counter-piracy and other issues.

The men previously held an introductory video teleconference in December and plan for regular video meetings about every 90 days, Lapan said.

The U.S. conducts dozens of military exercises and other engagements directly with Russian counterparts each year. Dempsey and Gerasimov discussed holding fewer but better quality events.

While political relations remain cold — Russian lawmakers recently voted to ban Americans from adopting Russian children, and the GOP presidential nominee painted Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” last year — military-to-military interactions have increased in number and depth over recent years.  In October, Rear Admiral Mark C. Montgomery, who was deputy director for plans, policy, and strategy at U.S. European Command, said the friendly, near-daily interactions between American and Russian militaries carried on as “all business.”

Long from the Cold War, the thaw continues.

“Gerasimov invited Gen Dempsey to visit Russia in the spring,” Lapan said.

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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