Russia is ghosting Pentagon’s phone calls — expert worries of ‘nightmare scenario’: report
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby during a media briefing October 15, 2014 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia (AFP)

Backchannel communications between United States and Russian military leaders have reportedly broken down following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

"Repeated attempts by the United States’ top defense and military leaders to speak with their Russian counterparts have been rejected by Moscow for the last month, leaving the world’s two largest nuclear powers in the dark about explanations for military movements and raising fears of a major miscalculation or battlefield accident," The Washington Post reported Wednesday. "Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have tried to set up phone calls with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov but the Russians 'have so far declined to engage,' said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby in a statement Wednesday."

Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO James Stavridis explained the risk of the breakdown in contact.

“There is a high risk of escalation without the firebreak of direct contact between the most senior officials,” he said. “Very young people are flying in jets, operating warships, and conducting combat operations in the Ukrainian war. They are not seasoned diplomats, and their actions in the heat of operations can be misunderstood.”

“We must avoid a scenario of NATO and Russia sleepwalking into war because senior leaders can’t pick up a phone and explain to each other what is happening,” Stavridis explained. “A nightmare scenario would be a Russian missile or attack aircraft that destroys a U.S. command post across the Polish-Ukrainian border. A local commander might respond immediately, thinking the event was a precursor to a wider attack. This could lead to rapid and irreversible escalation, to include potential use of nuclear weapons.”

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