Top U.S. General Meets With Russian Counterpart

( The United States’ top military official met in Finland with his counterpart in Russia this week, as the two countries are trying to get on the same page about America setting up basing rights and support for counterterrorism in countries that border Afghanistan.

To this point, Russia has outright opposed these ideas by the U.S. That’s why General Mark Milley, who serves as the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, in Helinski this week.

Tensions are high in the region following America’s full withdrawal from Afghanistan last month. Since the U.S. no longer has troops on the ground in Afghanistan, it needs to get agreements in place with other countries near it to share intelligence and set up basing operations.

The U.S. goal is to make sure that Islamic State militants and al-Qaida in Afghanistan aren’t re-grouping and trying to pose a threat to the U.S. as well as all its allies.

In July, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, Sergei Ryabkov, warned America that it would be “unacceptable” for the U.S. to deploy troops in countries that bordered Afghanistan.

Ryabkov said Russia warned the U.S. “in a direct and straightforward way that it would change a lot of things not only in our perceptions of what’s going on in that important region, but also in our relations with the United States.”

Milley wouldn’t give reporters details of what happened at the meeting in Finland this week. Instead, a spokesman for the general, Colonel Dave Butler, said in a statement that the meeting was just a “continuation of talks aimed at improving military leadership communication between the two nations for the purposes of risk reduction and operational de-confliction.”

The U.S. and Russia both had agreed not to share any details of what happened at the meeting, Butler said, which is what they’d done in the past when they’ve met in person or talked over the phone.

Milley did say before the meeting, though, that basic was a big issue that was on his mind while he was traveling around Europe. He also said he talked about that particular issue with his counterparts with NATO during a meeting in Greece last weekend.

Many of the top U.S. military officials have said the Islamic State and/or al-Qaida could eventually pose a renewed threat to the U.S. in the next one or two years.

The U.S. would counter that by conducting surveillance and strikes, if necessary, in Afghanistan from “over the horizon.” In other words, they would conduct those missions from bases they set up in other countries.

The problem right now is that their best allies in the region are long flights over the Persian Gulf, giving surveillance air missions only limited time once they get to Afghanistan. That’s why setting up shop in neighboring countries is so important to the American military mission.