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Top US, Russian military chiefs meet in Helsinki

The meeting's agenda has not been made public, but it coincides with the aftermath of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Kenraalit Mark Milley ja Valery Gerasimov.
General Mark Milley (left), chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Valery Gerasimov (right), chief of the Russian General Staff. Image: U.S. Army Master Sgt. Chuck Burden

Top military officials from the United States and Russia met in Helsinki on Wednesday, according to US news agency Associated Press (AP).

The daylong meeting between General Mark Milley, chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, came at a crucial juncture in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Although the exact agenda of the meeting was not made public, Milley's spokesperson told AP that the two officials discussed efforts to improve communications between the two nations as well as how to reduce potential risk factors.

"Both sides seek increased transparency to reduce misunderstanding and increase stability," Colonel Dave Butler said. "The meeting is serious, both generals display mutual respect for each other though both have taken the opportunity to quip or joke on occasion."

AP further reported that US military leaders want to ensure that they will continue to receive intelligence from Afghanistan even after the withdrawal of US troops — including information on Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants in the country.

US military bases in the region a "sensitive" subject

The United States may also conduct counter-terrorism surveillance and even launch strikes on Afghanistan from military bases in other countries, but flights from current bases in the Persian Gulf may prove too long.

The US and their allies therefore want to reach agreements on bases and intelligence-sharing with nations closer to Afghanistan, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan.

However, the possibility of the US establishing military bases in these countries is a highly sensitive subject.

AP reported that Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in July that Russia had warned the United States that any deployment of American troops in countries neighbouring Afghanistan would be "unacceptable".

He also said that Russia had warned the Central Asian countries not to allow US troops within their borders.

Helsinki has hosted meetings between the US and Russia on a number of occasions in the past, including a 2018 summit between then-US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

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