By Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon has established a new hotline with Russia’s ministry of defense to prevent “miscalculation, military incidents and escalation” in the region as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine advances, a U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday.
The United States says it has no troops in Ukraine but it and NATO allies in Europe are worried about potential spillover, including accidents, as Russia’s stages the largest assault on a European state since World War Two.
The U.S. and its allies are also channeling millions of dollars worth of weaponry to Ukraine’s armed forces, which are using the arms against Russian troops, despite Moscow’s warnings against foreign interference.
“The Department of the Defense recently established a de-confliction line with the Russian ministry of defense on March 1 for the purposes of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation,” a senior U.S. defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirming a move first reported by NBC.
The U.S. military has successful created hotlines with Russia in the past, including during the war in Syria, where Moscow intervened on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.
There, the United States and Russia were waging parallel military campaigns, with the United States focused on battling Islamic State.
The move is just the latest effort to lower soaring tension between the United States and Russia, where President Vladimir Putin — in a clear warning to the West — announced last weekend he was putting his nuclear forces on high alert.
Putin’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was quoted on Wednesday warning that a Third World War would be a nuclear conflict, remarks that added to growing unease.
The U.S. military said on Wednesday it would postpone a scheduled test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.
“We recognize, at this moment of tension, how critical it is that both the United States and Russia bear in mind the risk of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday, announcing the move.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Chris Reese, Alexandra Hudson)