Dunford to Meet With Russian Military Leaders to Discuss Syria

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford / Getty Images

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford will meet with Russian military leaders on Friday in Helsinki to discuss the situation in Syria among other matters.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, will represent the Russian government in what will be the third face-to-face meetings between the two generals, the Department of Defense announced.

U.S. Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder released a written statement on Thursday announcing the upcoming meetings.

"The two military leaders will discuss the deconfliction of coalition and Russian operations in Syria and exchange views on the state of U.S.-Russia military relations and the current international security situation in Europe and other key regions," Ryder said.

It is not expected the meeting will result in any increase in military cooperation.

Russia has a large military presence in Syria already, working with the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. However, they have spent little effort combating terror groups such as the Islamic State and instead has focused on rebel groups, some of which are supported by the United States.

The United States and Russia occasionally do communicate and notify one another of military operations they are conducting in the region.

Additionally, Russian troops are in parts of Georgia and Eastern Ukraine. The United States has provided aid to both countries, to help them counter Russian forces. Officials say Russia's actions have made it impossible for military cooperation between the two countries.

The meeting in Finland does not portend increased military cooperation between the United States and Russia, Joint Staff officials said. Russian actions in Georgia – where it invaded and still occupies the provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia — and its annexation of the Ukraine province of Crimea make any cooperation between the two countries impossible, officials said. Russia also has troops in Eastern Ukraine and continues to foment unrest in the country.

Dunford met earlier on Thursday with Gen. Jarmo Lindberg, his Finnish counterpart to discuss cooperation between the two countries.