HO CHI MINH CITY –
The top US military officer said on Wednesday that he had tried to contact his Russian counterpart after a missile explosion in Poland, but could not be reached.
Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his staff had tried to call Russia’s highest-ranking military official, General Valery Gerasimov, to discuss the incident but “did not successful.”
Milley did not elaborate on the efforts, but the lack of communication raised concerns about high-level communication between the United States and Russia during a crisis. An attack on Poland, a NATO member, could lead to the risk of a larger conflict if Russia launches the attack.
The United States and other top leaders say they believe the strike could have been carried out by Ukrainian air defenses to counter a Russian missile bombardment. But uncertainty swirled for hours. Several US defense officials said it was not uncommon for Gerasimov to be absent on a call.
John Tierney, director of the Centers for Weapons Control and Nonproliferation in Washington, said the lack of communication was worrisome, especially given the potential effects of the attack.
“Open lines of communication are vital if we want to avoid the risk of conflict due to misconception, miscalculation or confusion,” says Tierney. “It is disturbing to learn from General Milley that his counterpart was unreachable or unavailable to participate when an explosion occurred in Poland.”
Milley spoke with his military partners in Ukraine and Poland as governments worked quickly to assess whether the missile that killed two people in Poland was launched by Russia or Ukraine.
The conversation came as Milley said that Russia’s recent defeat in the key southern city of Kherson and the possibility that military operations could slow down over the winter could present an opportunity for negotiations.
“You want to negotiate at a time when you are strong and your opponent is weak,” Milley said at a Pentagon news conference on Wednesday. “The Russian army is suffering heavy losses,” he said, pointing to the large losses of Russian tanks, combat vehicles, combat aircraft and helicopters.
Milley said that if fighting slows down, that could become a “window” for negotiations on a political settlement.
Both he and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said they hoped Ukraine would continue to fight through the winter and that the United States and its allies would continue to provide additional weapons and support. And Ukraine will decide any plans for negotiations.
“We have repeatedly said that the Ukrainians will decide that, not us. And we will support them in their time of need,” said Austin, who was also present at the press conference.
Austin said the rocket that landed in Poland on Tuesday was launched in “the largest wave of rockets we’ve seen since the beginning of the war”. On Tuesday, Russia launched up to 100 missiles into Ukraine as Moscow ramped up its air strikes following significant losses on the ground.
Milley said it was unlikely that either side could achieve a quick military victory. He said the possibility that Russia, which now controls about 20% of Ukraine, overwhelms the entire country is “almost zero”. And, he added, “the military task of driving the Russians out of Ukraine is a very difficult one. And it won’t happen in the next few weeks unless the Russian military completely collapses, which is unlikely to happen. out.”