Russia warns US ahead of military chiefs’ meeting
Russia’s defense minister warned Washington on Thursday not to try to negotiate with Moscow “from a position of strength” ahead of the first meeting between their military chiefs since Donald Trump became US president.
“We are ready to restore cooperation with the Pentagon,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement.
“But attempts to build a dialogue from a position of strength in relation to Russia have no prospects.”
Shoigu was responding to comments new Pentagon chief James Mattis made to NATO on Wednesday.
“We remain open to oppor- tunities to restore a cooperative relationship with Moscow, while being realistic in our expectations and ensuring our diplomats negotiate from a position of strength,” Mattis said in Brussels.
The comments come as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford is set to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.
The meeting takes place as Trump’s administration battles to fend off reports that aides had repeated contact with Russian intelligence during the presidential campaign.
Under the administration of former president Barack Obama, ties between Russia and the US slumped to their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow’s diplomacy with Ukraine and intervention in Syria.
Trump has repeatedly held out the prospect of cooperating with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State group, a goal that the Kremlin has long pushed for.
The Pentagon said Dunford and Gerasimov will discuss “the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises”.