The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, tried to speak to his Russian counterpart on Tuesday after a missile explosion in Poland, but was unable to get through, the senior military official revealed on Wednesday.
Milley said his staff tried to connect him to Russian General Valery Gerasimov, but “they couldn’t connect me.”
Instead, he spoke several times with his Ukrainian counterpart, with his Polish counterpart and with other defense chiefs in Europe, Milley told reporters at the Pentagon.
US officials are still waiting for more information about the exact origin of a Soviet-era missile that struck inside the borders of Poland on Tuesday, killing two.
Initial Polish and NATO assessments suggest the weaponry was likely a Ukrainian air defense missile that unintentionally struck near the Ukrainian-Polish border in the village of Przewodów.
The incident occurred as Russia began a new missile barrage in Ukraine, hitting civilian targets and energy infrastructure before winter.
Secretary of Defense lloyd austinSpeaking with Milley on Wednesday, he said the Pentagon was still gathering information but “hasn’t seen anything that contradicts [Polish President Andrzej Duda’s] preliminary assessment that this explosion was likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland.”
He added that whatever the final conclusion, “the world knows that Russia bears the ultimate responsibility for this incident.”
tuesday incident make western leaders nervous and sparked a series of calls and meetings between senior officials after it appeared Russia’s attacks on Ukraine had spread beyond its borders and risked widening the conflict, a long-standing concern among NATO members. , among which is Poland.
But the new assessments that emerged on Wednesday appeared to assuage concerns that the attack would escalate the nearly nine-month-old war, as it did not appear that Russia had deliberately targeted Poland. Such a fact may have brought NATO into the conflict under Article 5 of the alliance’s treaty, which states that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all.
The Polish government, with the help of American experts, is now investigating the explosion, and Austin said Washington has “full confidence” in the investigation.
“They have been conducting that investigation in a professional and deliberate manner, so we will not get ahead of their work. We will stay in close contact with our Polish counterparts, as well as our NATO allies and other valued partners,” Austin said.
Pentagon leaders also cited Russia’s ongoing efforts in its war against Ukraine, with Milley calling the latest bombardment of Moscow by 60 to 100 missiles “probably the largest wave of missiles we’ve seen since the start of the war” and a “crime war.”
“Deliberately attacking the civilian power grid, causing excessive collateral damage and unnecessary suffering to the civilian population, is a war crime,” Milley said.
The top general, who met virtually with the Pentagon-led Ukraine Contact Group on Wednesday, also pushed for Ukraine to receive more air defense capabilities, weapons he called “critical” to Ukraine’s future successes.
In addition, Milley stressed that Moscow has failed in “each and every one” of the objectives of the conflict.
“It is clear that the Russian will to fight does not match the Ukrainian will to fight,” Milley said. “The Russians have failed every time. They have lost strategically, they have lost operationally and, I repeat, they have lost tactically. What they tried to do, they failed.”
But he also conceded that “physically driving the Russians out of Ukraine militarily is a very difficult task” and that the Ukrainian military probably won’t succeed “in the short term,” although there may be a political alternative to ending the conflict.
“The Russian army is really suffering a lot. So you want to trade at a time when you are at your strength and your opponent is at your weakness,” Milley said. “It is possible, perhaps, that there is a political solution. All I’m saying is there’s a chance for it. That’s all I’m saying.