The top U.S. military officer held "businesslike" talks on Georgia, Afghanistan and missile defense with his Russian counterpart Tuesday, a signal of thawing relations between the two powers.
Held in Finland, it was the highest-level military meeting between the two countries since Russia's war with U.S. ally Georgia in August. The conflict strained already tense ties between Washington and Moscow.
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Russian Gen. Nikolai Makarov "discussed a wide range of issues, including the future of NATO and the current status of missile defense systems in Europe," said Kim Hargan, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Finland.
Mullen later called Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying they had a "productive, businesslike conversation," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said in Washington, adding that Gates was pleased with the outcome.
A U.S. defense official said that Makarov, who became Russia's top military officer in June, suggested the meeting and that the two military leaders covered a range of topics including Georgia, Black Sea operations and Afghanistan as it related to NATO involvement.
Makarov told Russia's RIA-Novosti news agency that they talked about the resumption of the Russia-NATO Council, which was suspended after the Georgia war. A decision on resuming the council, a forum that brought NATO countries and Russia together, will be made in November or December "and this question remains in the Americans' court," he was quoted as saying.
Washington and Moscow have also clashed over U.S. plans to base elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia fears the system would be used either to spy on its military or reduce its nuclear deterrent.
Makarov told the ITAR-Tass news agency that he and Mullen agreed to discuss military matters "periodically" by phone "and if necessary, in face-to-face talks."