The Pentagon’s decision late Monday to cease temporarily its relations with the Russian military has taken on greater gravity following the release of the Defense Department’s major strategic plan.
Interaction with the Russian military is considered a critical part of the U.S. mission to address threats in and around Europe and Asia, according to the Quadrennial Defense Review released Tuesday morning. The once-every-four-years QDR, mandated by Congress, is an appraisal of worldwide threats and the Pentagon’s plan to address them. It was released in tandem with the military’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year.
The U.S. is willing to undertake security cooperation with Russia to serve both militaries, the QDR said, but also as a key component to addressing critical threats in Iran, Syria and post-2014 Afghanistan after U.S. combat troops withdraw.
“At the same time,” the report states, “Russia’s multi-dimensional defense modernization and actions that violate the sovereignty of its neighbors present risks. We will engage Russia to increase transparency and reduce the risk of military miscalculation.”
Hours before the release of the report, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. James Kirby said the U.S. is putting its liaisons with Russia on hold.
“We have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia. This includes exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences,” he said in a statement released late Monday. “We call on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and for Russian forces in Crimea to return to their bases, as required under the agreements governing the Russia Black Sea Fleet.”
The Russian government denies any of its ground troops are in Crimea. However, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says Russia has at least deployed jets into Ukrainian airspace, and its ships have surrounded key Ukrainian ports.
Kirby said the Defense Department has valued its relationship with Russia, and that it has served to increase transparency, build understanding and reduce risk of military miscalculation.