Pentagon: Milley and Gerasimov could discuss U.S. use of Russian military bases
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told senators on Tuesday that the nation's top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley, spoke to his Russian counterpart about an apparent offer to use Russian bases to respond to terrorist threats following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
But the Pentagon chief downplayed assertions the department was seeking Moscow's "permission" to conduct military operations from those locations, Politico reported.
"Gen. Milley just recently had a conversation with his Russian counterpart," Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I can assure that we are not seeking Russia's permission to do anything. ... But I believe he asked for clarification on what that offer was."
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Milley discussed the Kremlin offer with Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov when the pair met last week in Helsinki.
The conversation stemmed from a June summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva where Putin floated hosting U.S. troops at Russian bases in Central Asia. According to the report, Milley's query was at the behest of the White House National Security Council staff, which wanted the Joint Chiefs chair to clarify whether the offer was serious.
"This is an issue that I believe came up during a conversation that the president had with President Putin where President Putin offered ... to provide assistance," Austin said.