The deconfliction line established this week between the US and Russia is a bilateral “US to Russia deconfliction level,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Friday.
The line is being managed by US European Command under Gen. Tod Wolters, the Commander of US European Command,
“It’s being administered as a bilateral US to Russia deconfliction level, that’s why it’s being handled out of US European Command headquarters and not Gen. Wolters under his NATO hat,” Kirby said.
Kirby said the deconfliction line is valuable “to reduce the risks of miscalculation and to be able to communicate in real-time, if need be, particularly now the airspace over Ukraine is contested by both Russian and Ukraine aircraft.”
The phone line is “at a lower operational level,” Kirby said.
“It’s basically staffed by staff-level officers there at European Command headquarters,” he continued.
More background: The deconfliction phone line that was set up this week between the US and Russia did work in its initial setup, a senior US defense official told reporters on Friday.
The phone line worked in the initial test call the US made to Russia, the official said.
“It is in place, the Russians have acknowledged it, in our initial test of it, they answered the phone, so we know that they know who’s calling and that they will at least, in terms of the initial initiation of it, the setting up of it, it worked, and they did answer the line,” the official said.
The establishment of the agreement was particularly noteworthy because until now Pentagon officials have said they have not had any direct communications with Russian counterparts since the invasion.
There had been an effort to establish the communications line since late last month. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on Feb. 18. The two also spoke one week earlier. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley last spoke to the Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov on Feb. 11th.
The US has specifically rejected any no-fly zone over Ukraine saying it would put US pilots into a combat scenario in order to enforce such a plan. But the door is not shut on a potential future air humanitarian corridor to guarantee safe flight of relief supplies hostilities cease, officials say.
A deconfliction protocol has existed for several years between US and Russian forces in Syria. For the most part it has worked, although US officials have complained on several occasions the Russians have not given enough advance warning of their operations. The US does not give Russia detailed information but did notify them recently when US aircraft would be operating in a broad area northeast Syria.