Milley discussed Putin offer to use Russian bases to monitor Afghanistan: report
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to use Russia’s military bases in Central Asia to respond to emerging terrorist threats in Afghanistan, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Milley brought up the offer last week during a meeting with Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, the Journal reported, citing U.S. officials. This was reportedly done at the request of President Biden’s National Security Council staff.
The idea of hosting U.S. military personnel on Russian bases was first brought up by Putin on June 16 in Geneva, the Journal reported. National Security Council staffers had asked Milley to gain clarification on whether this was a legitimate offer or simply a debating point.
The officials told the Journal that Gerasimov was evasive when it came to committing to the offer.
The Hill has reached out to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for comment. When contacted by the Journal, the Kremlin declined to comment.
Since its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. has relied on bases in the Persian Gulf region to monitor the country, leaving hundreds of miles between U.S. personnel and potential targets. During the Geneva summit, Putin voiced his opposition to American efforts to negotiate military access in Central Asian governments, instead bringing up Russian military bases as an alternative.
A White House official told the Journal that the U.S. would not be asking for Russia’s permission to place forces closer to Afghanistan, though they would seek to better understand the Russian president’s stance.
“We will pursue our own policies based on our own objectives,” said the Biden official. “The reality is Russia is an element of the equation in the region and so we are engaging with them.”
This report on Milley’s discussion with his Russian counterpart comes as he is set to face what will likely be a harsh grilling from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to face tough questioning during a Senate hearing on Tuesday focusing on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Some GOP lawmakers have called for Milley’s resignation and have also attacked him for allegations made about him in a recent book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The book, “Peril,” cites sources claiming Milley sought to limit former President Trump’s military capabilities following the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
“I think he’s going to get a grilling like he’s never seen before. And if he takes the bait and gets argumentative and defensive, it’s going to be a big problem,” a defense official told The Hill.