The US and Russian militaries have established a “deconfliction” line to prevent misunderstandings or accidents from escalating into a war between Moscow and NATO, the Pentagon confirmed on Thursday.
“The United States retains a number of channels to discuss critical security issues with the Russians during a contingency or emergency,” a senior Department of Defense official told reporters in a background briefing on Thursday. “The Department of the Defense recently established a deconfliction line with the Russian Ministry of Defense on March 1 for the purposes of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation.”
The Pentagon is already using a similar communications channel with Moscow in Syria, where Russia has been conducting counter-terrorist operations at the invitation of Damascus since late 2015 – and occasionally crossing paths with US forces operating in the country without an international mandate.
US European Command will be in charge of the American side of the hotline, the Pentagon official said. The announcement comes a day after Sweden – which is not a NATO member – accused Russian aircraft of straying into its airspace over the Gotland islands in the Baltic Sea.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon told reporters it was seeking to establish a direct channel with the Russian military, as more US and NATO troops moved towards the alliance’s eastern borders. The US alone has sent several thousand troops to Poland, Romania and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in recent weeks.
While US President Joe Biden condemned the Russian “invasion” of Ukraine and imposed sweeping economic and cultural sanctions he said would “cripple” Russia in the long term, the White House also insisted there was no plan for US or NATO troops to fight inside Ukraine.