Friday, February 24, 2017

US - Russia military talks to be elevated - Google Search | U.S. generals want elevated talks with Russia about Iraq and Syria operations because of aerial collision fears | The Pentagon should consider more discussions with Russia as the battlespace continues to grow more complex in Iraq and Syria in the fight against the Islamic State, a top U.S. Air Force general said Friday. "There is room to elevate [talks with Russia]," Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, told reporters during a breakfast in Washington, D.C. "We have constant communication with the Russians and, when we do, the deconfliction is incredibly valuable." | Dunford Meets Russian Counterpart to Strengthen Mil-to-Mil Contacts

U.S. generals want elevated talks with Russia about Iraq and Syria operations because of aerial collision fears

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An F-22 Raptor approaches a KC-10 Extender before aerial refueling during a mission on Feb. 12. (Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks/U.S. Air Force)
BAGHDAD — Senior U.S. military officials want to elevate talks with Russia about air operations over Iraq and Syria, an effort that is meant to protect pilots from collisions but complicated by concerns at the Pentagon that doing so will make it look like Washington and Moscow have begun to collaborate on the battlefield.
The talks, known as deconfliction, began in 2015 after the Russian military deployed forces to Khmeimim Air Base, a military installation along Syria’s Mediterranean coastline that has been used to launch airstrikes against opposition forces in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Russia’s arrival in Syria complicated U.S.-led operations against the Islamic State military group in Syria, which began a year earlier.
An agreement signed between Washington and Moscow in fall 2015 called for the use of specific communication frequencies and the establishment of a phone hotline in which a U.S. colonel in Qatar and a Russian counterpart in Syria “deconflict” operations regularly but do not share intelligence. When there are points of contention between the two militaries, though, the existing arrangement has not left many options for U.S. officers, said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the top Air Force commander in the Middle East.
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“Our perspective has been that there needs to be another layer that allows us to have a more senior-level discussion, and we’ve got to work through where that layer is,” Harrigian told reporters in Baghdad this week, suggesting that adding a U.S. general with somewhere between one and three stars and a Russian counterpart would be helpful.
Harrigian said that U.S. aircraft “on occasion get out of the way” of Russian jets. This was especially true a few months ago when both countries were launching airstrikes regularly near the Syrian city of Palmyra, he said. Such decisions could be hampering the overall operation, however.
“In essence, we had some conflicting operational desires that ultimately we ended up working our way through over time because we were never able to elevate this discussion,” Harrigian said. “Did we miss targets? I can’t say that for sure, but I would tell you that optimally we would have gone after that in a different manner.”
U.S. military officials also have advocated upgrading the technology used to communicate with the Russians, which up until now has consisted of “little more than a commercial phone line,” said Air Force Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. Doing so, he said, would boost the safety of flight operations, “and that’s certainly a big reason for considering making the communication more robust.”
The discussions are complicated by legislation passed in 2014 after Moscow’s military bloody intervention into Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. With few exceptions, the law banned military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Russia unless Russian forces withdraw from Ukraine. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis can make an exception on issues where he considers it in U.S. interests, but is not ready to do so anytime soon, according to two people familiar with his thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, with Iraqi Defense Minister Arfan al-Hayali at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad on Feb. 20. (Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte Brantley via European Pressphoto Agency)
During a Feb. 16 visit to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, Mattis said that the conditions are not right presently for the U.S. and Russian militaries to work together and that Moscow would have to “prove itself” first.
“We are not in a position right now to collaborate on a military level, but our political leaders will engage and try to find common ground or a way forward so that Russia, living up to its commitment, can return to a partnership of sorts here with NATO,” Mattis said.
Senior U.S. military officials and the Obama administration last year discussed establishing a new, higher-level channel for communicating with Russia about Syria that could have involved three-star generals, but Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter opted not to make a change before leaving office, according to people who were aware of discussions at the time and spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly.
The individuals said that one of the concerns was potentially creating the appearance that Russia and the United States were carving up sections of Syrian airspace for their differing missions, effectively collaborating. Another was that senior U.S. military officials already could consult senior civilian officials at the Pentagon in cases where they ran into any difficulty with the Russians.
Elissa Slotkin, one former senior defense official involved in the discussions at the time, said that until the Trump administration makes policy decisions about how it wants to interact with Russia in regard to Syria, it would be unwise to increase interaction between the U.S. and Russian militaries any more than needed to keep pilots safe. She said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis might address the issue in a plan he has been directed to deliver to Trump by the end of the month on how to accelerate the war against the Islamic State, she said.
Concerns about a potential collision in the air have persisted as U.S., Russian, Syrian and Turkish aircraft increasingly converge on the same areas of Syria, like the city of al-Bab. Pilots who have recently flown combat sorties over Iraq and Syria said that existing ways of deconflicting don’t always work well and Russian pilots sometimes do not respond to radio communications.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing that flies combat missions against the Islamic State, said that the military has opted to fly advanced F-22 Raptors above U.S. aircraft in a “stack” formation in part because their sensors can better keep track of other aircraft. At times, he said, information gathered in the F-22 has been used to shift other U.S. planes to make room for an incoming Russian aircraft.
In October, U.S. military officials were particularly alarmed by an incident over Syria in which a Russian jet passed within a half-mile of a coalition E-3 Sentry, better known as an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane. The encounter was close enough to knock out the radar on the AWACS, Corcoran said.
Operations have improved since then, Corcoran said, but he said he’d still welcome additional dialogue. Russian jets not only encounter American aircraft over Syria, he said, but over the Iraqi city of Mosul and surrounding areas, as Russian jets travel to Syria from southern Russia after crossing south down the Caspian Sea and west over Iran.
“I think it would be helpful,” Corcoran said of elevating talks. “It’s never a bad thing to have [military-to-military] ties. How many times during the Cold War did we say that having them stopped bad things from happening? We all have our objectives, but we have to talk.”
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford was open to elevating deconfliction talks to higher levels of the military, individuals familiar with previous discussions said. He met Feb. 16 with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov, in Baku, Azerbaijan, marking their first face-to-face meeting since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
A spokesman for Dunford, Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, said that the U.S. military continues to ensure the safety of flights over Syria and concerns are met through existing communication channels but declined to characterize Dunford’s talks with the Russian general.
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US - Russia military talks to be elevated - Google Search

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US, Russia Need More Talk on ISIS Fight, Air Force General Says

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Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the Air Combat Command commander, engages with the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces during a hearing in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2016. (Photo: Senior Airman Hailey Haux)
The Pentagon should consider more discussions with Russia as the battlespace continues to grow more complex in Iraq and Syria in the fight against the Islamic State, a top U.S. Air Force general said Friday.
"There is room to elevate [talks with Russia]," Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, told reporters during a breakfast in Washington, D.C. "We have constant communication with the Russians and, when we do, the deconfliction is incredibly valuable."
The Washington Post reported senior U.S. military officials are considering more talks, even if it could be construed as increased cooperation with Moscow. Carlisle, who will retire next month after leading the command since 2014 and having almost 40 years in service, said while he has not been intimately involved in the ongoing discussions, it's an obvious choice.
"Increased dialogue has got to happen because it's going to become more and more complex as time goes on. And as we continue to squeeze ISIS and continue to take more territory away from them, it becomes more complex," he said. "I think we have to continue to work that avenue because in the defeat of ISIS, everything we do ... as we work together with the Russians [is] incredibly important in the deconfliction -- to [avoid] any miscalculations, any mistakes, any unintended consequences."
Carlisle continued, "To me, it makes sense. The more you can build an understanding between those flying in the same … airspace, the better off you're going to be."
The U.S. is operating under a memorandum of understanding signed in 2015, which established a phone "hotline" the militaries could use to alert one another of actions they're taking in Syria.
Officials including the Air Force's top general in the Middle East, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian; U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Joseph Votel; and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, are weighing new options with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Carlisle said.
The reasons to do so are mounting, he added.
"It's a dense surface-to-air threat in portions of Syria," Carlisle said. Aircraft must be ready at all times to act, he said, because "the [surface-to-air missile] systems the Russians and Syrians have over there are active systems."
He clarified that while the SAM systems are operative, they're not necessarily painting U.S. aircraft with target tracking radars "to any great extent that I know of."
Mattis, during his trip last week to Europe to reassure NATO allies on emerging Russian threats, assured them that Russia's actions within Syria and in Ukraine and the Baltic states are not looked on favorably by the U.S.
"Russia's aggressive actions have violated international law and are destabilizing," he said during a speech to NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
Mattis said of further military cooperation, "Russia is going to have to prove itself first."
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.
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“General of the Army Valery Gerasimov and General Joseph Dunford exchanged their views on condition of the Russia-America relationship, assessments of situations in the field of international security in Europe, Middle East, North Africa and other key regions of the world,” the Russian Defense Ministry statement added.
Despite Thursday’s talks, Defense Secretary James Mattis has ruled out military cooperation with Russia.
“We do not or are not in a position right now to collaborate on a military level,” Mattis said Thursday morning in Brussels. “But our political leaders will engage and try to find common ground or a way forward where Russia, living up to its commitments, will return to a partnership of sorts here with NATO.”
 _______________________


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Department of Defense Joseph Dunford and Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov have today [2.16.17] met in Baku.
The military leaders discussed a variety of issues including the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises.



Dunford Meets Russian Counterpart to Strengthen Mil-to-Mil Contacts


By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity / Published Feb. 16, 2017
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with his Russian counterpart, Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov, here today. 


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford meets with Army Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and first deputy minister of defense, in Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 16, 2017. The military leaders exchanged their views on the state of U.S.-Russian military relations and of the international security situation in Europe, the Middle East, and other key regions. The U.S. and Russian militaries have undertaken efforts to improve operational safety of military activities in order to decrease the prospects for crisis and avoid the risk of unintended incidents. The leaders further agreed to enhance communications on such stabilizing measures. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford meets with Army Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and first deputy minister of defense, in Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 16, 2017. The military leaders exchanged their views on the state of U.S.-Russian military relations and of the international security situation in Europe, the Middle East, and other key regions. The U.S. and Russian militaries have undertaken efforts to improve operational safety of military activities in order to decrease the prospects for crisis and avoid the risk of unintended incidents. The leaders further agreed to enhance communications on such stabilizing measures. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro
Dunford and Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and the first deputy defense minister, discussed the current state of the military relationship between the United States and Russia.
This was the first face-to-face meeting between the two men. The two have previously spoken via telephone. “There’s a certain advantage to seeing someone face-to-face,” said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the Joint Staff’s director of strategic plans and policy. “While we’ve never had trouble getting him on the phone if we needed to talk, … there’s a certain advantage to sitting down and looking at someone across the table.”
This is the first meeting at this level since January 2014, when Gerasimov met with then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey in Brussels.
Since that meeting, Russia illegally annexed Crimea, intervened in eastern Ukraine, and sent troops, planes and ships to Syria propping up the regime of Bashir Assad. Russian ships and aircraft have acted in a provocative and dangerous manner in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. Russia’s actions have drawn worldwide condemnation.
Keeping Lines of Communication Open
The meeting between the two military leaders is not the beginning of an effort to return the relationship to the pre-Crimea status, McKenzie said. Rather, the meeting is a chance to ensure the lines of communication between the two militaries remain open.
The two chiefs of defense did not discuss policy or political issues, the general said. The Dunford-Gerasimov meeting was held to establish the link between the men “so they see each other and have an opportunity to size each other up. It’s very hard to do that over a telephone,” McKenzie said.
The chairman conveyed that the United States values the military-to-military link -- professionals talking to professionals -- regardless of the ups and downs of the U.S.-Russia relationship.
“Even at the height of the Cold War, we had a capability to talk to the Russians,” McKenzie said. “It doesn’t reflect we agree with everything or even anything that they are doing; that’s not the purpose of this discussion. The purpose is to establish and reinforce procedures for us to talk in case we have an incident where we need to exchange information rapidly.”
The meeting has been in the works for months, officials said. “The importance of this is the military-to-military communications channel between the [chiefs of defense] is a useful thing to have,” McKenzie said. “We see that as useful, regardless of the state of our relationship with Russia. It is always useful to talk mil-to-mil. It avoids miscalculation; it promotes transparency when we have forces operating in close proximity to each other, as we do in Syria.”
The meeting does not portend increased cooperation between the United States and Russia in Syria or anywhere else, the general said.
Gerasimov has held his position since November 2012. Some credit the general as being the father of Russia’s hybrid war doctrine. The doctrine looks for combinations of military, diplomatic, cyber, economic, information and cultural powers to wage “political warfare” to gain strategic goals. The strategy lives in the grey area between peace and war, stopping short of actual conflict.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)