With the war in Ukraine underway for a month, some U.S. officials have attempted to reach their counterparts in Russia.
But the Russians won’t take their calls.
Included in the snub is Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
You remember Milley — the guy who reportedly let his friends the Chinese know that if former President Donald Trump got crazy, Milley would step in to protect them.
Apparently, Milley doesn’t have the same kind of relationship with the Russians.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby Thursday told Fox’s America’s Newsroom that in the midst of these sensitive times, top Russian military officials are repeatedly rebuffing U.S. attempts to communicate with them.
“We think communications with the Russians is important,” Kirby said, “Particularly now – in fact, now more than ever – to be able to communicate with our Russian counterparts and make sure we can convey our continued concerns about the manner in which they’re prosecuting this unprovoked war.
“We have tried on numerous occasions to connect Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin with his counterpart; Chairman Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also tried to connect with his counterpart. We’ve made multiple attempts here, but they have not answered up, they’ve declined to take these calls.
Is it good that Gen. Milley may not have direct access to the Russian military?
“Now I will say, it’s not like we don’t have any communication with the Russians – We could do that through our embassy, we have a defense attaché in Moscow, we have a deconfliction line, of course, that we’re using – it’s not so much for normal comms – but in order to deconflict, especially in that airspace as you get closer to NATO’s eastern flank.
“So there are vehicles – we still have military-to-military communications with the Russians — but at the senior levels, where we think it’s really important, particularly right now, that’s not happening. And it’s not happening because the Russians don’t seem to be interested.”
So it goes. Despite attempts by the Biden administration to keep things somewhat throttled back, the U.S. continues to be drawn into direct conflict with Russia. And there is ongoing talk of the use of nuclear weapons.
Despite assurances by Kirby of general communications links between the U.S. and Russia, the fact that top military communications are cut off is unsettling.
In what is growing to be a dangerous proxy war between the West and Russia, where else can errors, misreading and misunderstandings occur but within the fog of battles, with high military officials on both sides unable to communicate?
Not that military leaders are to set policy, as Milley attempted to do in the Trump administration.
An account of Milley’s behavior appeared in the book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. It took place four days before the 2020 election, when Milley reportedly called his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, to assure Zuocheng that “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
Former Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller called Milley’s behavior “disgraceful.”
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest-ranking military officer whose sole role is providing military-specific advice to the president, and by law is prohibited from exercising executive authority to command forces,” Miller had told Fox News.
“The chain of command runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense, not through the Chairman,” Miller said.
No matter for now, at least, since Milley can’t get through to his Russian counterparts. But if he can, we can only hope he won’t be attempting to dictate U.S. policy.
And he probably won’t, since the bulk of his problem, apparently, was with his former commander in chief.