U.S. chief Milley says talks were 'productive,'

The top American military officer held talks Wednesday with his Russian counterpart as the United States struggles to secure basing rights and other counterterrorism support in countries bordering Afghanistan — an effort Moscow has opposed.

The six-hour meeting in Finland’s capital between Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, came at a crucial time after the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Without troops on the ground, the U.S. needs to reach more basing, intelligence sharing and other agreements to help monitor al-Qaida and Islamic State militants in Afghanistan.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, had said in July that Moscow warned the U.S. that any deployment of American troops in countries neighboring Afghanistan “is unacceptable.” He said Russia told the U.S. “in a direct and straightforward way that it would change a lot of things not only in our perceptions of what’s going on in that important region, but also in our relations with the United States.”

Ryabkov also said that Russia had a “frank talk” with the Central Asian countries to warn them not to allow U.S. troops within their borders.

Both sides agreed not to disclose details of the talks, as has been the practice in previous meetings and calls. Afterward, Milley said: “It was a productive meeting. When military leaders of great powers communicate, the world is a safer place.”

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