As part of the Trump administration’s plan for increased high-level engagement with Russia in 2018, the top U.S. NATO commander will meet with Russia’s top military boss in Baku, Azerbaijan later this month.
“This is all part of the normal course of diplomacy and it should come as no surprise to anyone that there are many issues that we need to discuss with the Russians,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told an American media outlet.
Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the supreme allied commander of Europe, or SACEUR, is set to meet with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces.
The report noted that additional meetings are planned and/or scheduled:
Other meetings planned for January and February include talks on the Ukraine crisis between Vladislav Surkov, one of Vladimir Putin’s top aides, and Kurt Volker, the special envoy for the Ukraine crisis; discussions over longstanding irritants in US-Russia relations between Tom Shannon, the No. 3 official at the State Department, and Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister; and conversations related to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
Former President Obama banned meetings between the United States’ top NATO commander and his Russian counterpart after Moscow annexed the Crimea. The move was designed to show Russia the U.S. and NATO consider European borders to be inviolable. [source]
(Analyst comment: No doubt that any attempt President Trump makes in trying to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia will be tied to the ongoing ‘Russian collusion’ narrative as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation — as this source did. But The Obama administration attempted early on to “reset” relations with Moscow as well, but muffed the effort. We’ll see where this Trump-led effort goes, but it is important to remember that Ronald Reagan’s engagement with then-Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev eventually led to improved relations with post-Soviet Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That said, current President Vladimir Putin has been critical of that period of Russia-U.S.-NATO relations and has accused the West of taking advantage of Russia’s diminished power for decades. Now, at least, he has a much more powerful position from which to negotiate — as does Trump. It will be interesting to see what turns this relationship takes; the world would be far safer with two of the world’s biggest nuclear arsenals not on a hair trigger.)