Chief of the Russian General Staff Nikolai Makarov met with JCS Chairman Michael Mullen in Helsinki.

General of the Army Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, met with JCS Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen in Helsinki, Finland, this Tuesday.

It was the first meeting at this level after the conflict in South Ossetia following which the Alliance put the dialogue with Russia on hold. Mullen and Makarov acknowledged that it was wrong to curtail US-Russian cooperation in areas of common concern like the war on international terrorism and nuclear weapons nonproliferation. The decision was made to stay in touch and even meet whenever necessary. Interviewed by ITAR-TASS, Makarov even suggested restoration of the Russian-NATO Council within the nearest months.

Alexander Khramchikhin, an analyst with the Center for Political and Military Analysis, appraised this turn of events as absolutely logical. “Russia and the United States had to restore military cooperation in some form or other,” Khramchikhin said. “Neither the Russian military nor its American counterpart has the stamina or spirit for a fully-fledged Cold War.” The Russian army is launching structural reforms so that a Cold War is really the last thing it needs. As for the US Army, it has too many problems in Iraq and Afghanistan to cope with.

Robert Gates of the Pentagon seconded Mullen’s initiative concerning revival of the US-Russian military cooperation. “Considering what happened in Georgia, we cannot very well pretend that nothing extraordinary came to pass,” Gates said. “All the same, there are matters on which we will cooperate with the Russians because it is in our interests or in the interests of both our countries.”

An expert with the Council for Foreign Relations (Washington) pointed out that he would be hard pressed to list the areas and issues where the United States could do without Russia’s cooperation. “The bitter truth is that America needs Russia much more than Russia needs America,” he said. The trouble NATO contingents in Afghanistan are in is one of the particularly pressing problems. In fact, it is exactly this problem that convinced the US military to seek to restore the dialogue with Moscow.

“We desperately need a transit corridor via Russia to our troops and those of our allies in Afghanistan,” Council for Foreign Relations expert said. Pakistan provided one for years, but relations between Islamabad and Washington are not what they used to be and reliability of this corridor is therefore compromised. In the meantime, it is Afghanistan that official Washington regards as the main front of the war on international terrorism now and in the years to come.

Russia may come to its American partners’ aid and help with organization of non-military transit to Afghanistan. The United States will be expected to give Moscow something in return, say, withdrawal of its political and military support of Saakashvili in Georgia and alteration of American position on the matter of ballistic missile defense in East Europe. Renewal of the dialogue between the Russian and US military will hopefully put a consensus on these and other issues within reach.