An American official stated that the communications line between Russia’s military and the United States was only used once at this point. Reuters has reported on the deconfliction lines use beyond regular testing.
The details surrounding the incident that led up to the call on this line, which connects Russia’s National Defense Management Center and the US military’s European Command, are not known.
While the official refused to give more details, they said that it wasn’t used when an errant ballistic missile crashed into NATO-member Poland on Nov. 15, killing 2 people. Though the explosion was likely caused a Ukrainian missile defense system, Russia was responsible as it started war in February.
The US official refused to identify the Russian activity that raised alarm but there have been publically acknowledged incidents involving Russian fighting near critical Ukrainian infrastructure.
These Russian operations are centered around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. They are under Russian control.
Russia has been criticized by Ukraine for possibly destroying the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, which contains a huge reservoir. Bursting the dam could cause water to flood settlements below, including the strategically important Kherson capital. This was captured by Ukrainian forces on November 11.
Since the Russian invasion of neighboring Russia, communications between the US and Russia have been the focus of attention. There is a risk that one side will make a mistake which could lead to a conflict between the nuclear arm nations.
Many ways to communicate
The US and Russia still need to communicate via the deconfliction line.
Rare high-level talks with the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are another military channel. His office reported that top US and Russian military generals, US Army General Mark Milley, and Russian General Valery Georasimov, spoke on two occasions since the war began.
Jake Sullivan, White House National Security Advisor and Bill Burns, CIA Director have also had contact to Russian officials.
The US-Russia relations remain at their lowest since the Cold War. On Monday, the US State Department announced that Moscow delayed talks in Cairo with the US to resume inspections of nuclear weapons. Russian foreign ministry confirmed that talks were canceled. The reasons for the delay were not provided by either side.
The Pentagon did not respond to a question about the deconfliction line. It stated that it maintained several channels to “discuss key security issues with Russians during a contingency, emergency, for the purposes of preventing mistakes, military incidents, or escalation.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Defense stated that “We are encouraged to have had recent DoD calls with Russian counterparts” and said that continued dialogue is crucial.
It was not possible to get comment from the Russia Embassy in Washington, or its Defense Ministry in Moscow.
No ‘complaint’ line
It was announced by the Pentagon in March. The Pentagon explained that the deconfliction lines were created to avoid inadvertent clashes between Natoairspace and the ground.
According to a senior US defense official, “It’s certainly not intended to be an allpurpose complaint line where we can simply pick up the phone and express concerns about Russia in Ukraine.”
During Cold War, the United States maintained hot lines at different levels.
Alexander Vershbow was a former US ambassador in Moscow and a senior Pentagon and Natoofficial. Vershbow said that the most recent deconfliction line was designed to be more focused on daily operations and not the more strategic discussions between high officials like Milley, Gerasimov.
Vershbow used the example of the active deconfliction line in Syria to draw a parallel with it. In this case, the US and Russian military forces may sometimes operate in the exact same airspace or terrain.
Vershbow explained to Reuters, “We’ve seen it in Syria, where having a direct operational channel can at most clarify intentions during a fast moving situation where perhaps Washington is asleep.”
The US official said that the deconfliction phone line is tested twice daily by conducting calls in Russian. According to the official, these calls are initiated from Wiesbaden by a Russian speaker of the US European Command.
Wiesbaden also houses the Pentagon’s Security Assistance Group-Ukraine or SAG-U. This group supports remotely the Kyiv government’s defense from Russian troops.
On condition of anonymity, US officials have stated that the deconfliction line was used by conflict planners early on in the conflict. This could be useful in case the United States needs to evacuate Americans from Russian-occupied territory.
At the beginning of the war, America believed Russia might quickly be able to capture Ukrainian territory. This trapping American citizens before their chance to flee was possible.
It could have been used to chase a Ukrainian fighter jet into Polish airspace.

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