Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford to talk ‘deconfliction’ with top Russian general Friday in Helsinki

June 8, 2018 GMT

Amid deep tension between the two countries, top military leaders from the U.S. and Russia will meet Friday for a key face-to-face meeting in Helsinki, Pentagon officials said, stressing that the lines of communication between Washington and Moscow must remain open.

Marine Corps. Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, who serves as chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces. Friday will mark the third meeting between the two men.

“The two military leaders will discuss the deconfliction of coalition and Russian operations in Syria and exchange views on the state of U.S.-Russia military relations and the current international security situation in Europe and other key regions,” Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder said in a statement late Thursday.

The Defense Department made clear that Friday’s meeting does not portend increased military cooperation between the two countries, and stressed that Moscow’s political and military posture would have to change dramatically before such cooperation is possible.

Military officials said Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, its annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea, and its continued support of dictator Bashar Assad’s government in Syria make such cooperation between the U.S. and Russia impossible.

The meeting between Mr. Dunford and Mr. Gerasimov will be the first for the two men in over a year. They first sat down together in February 2017 in Azerbaijan, and again a month later in Turkey.