New US-Russia military hotline as Ukraine war rages

The hotline is just the latest effort to lower soaring tension between the US and Russia. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The Pentagon has established a new hotline with Russia's ministry of defence to prevent "miscalculation, military incidents and escalation" in the region as Russia's invasion of Ukraine advances, a United States official told Reuters on Thursday (March 3).

The US says it has no troops in Ukraine but it and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) allies in Europe are worried about potential spillover, including accidents, as Russia stages the largest assault on a European state since World War Two.

The US and its allies are also channelling millions of dollars worth of weaponry to Ukraine's armed forces, which are using the arms against Russian troops, despite Moscow's warnings against foreign interference.

"The Department of the Defence recently established a de-confliction line with the Russian ministry of defence on March 1 for the purposes of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation," a senior US defence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirming a move first reported by NBC News.

The US military has successfully created hotlines with Russia in the past, including during the war in Syria, where Moscow intervened on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.

There, the US and Russia were waging parallel military campaigns, with the US focused on battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group.

The hotline is just the latest effort to lower soaring tension between the US and Russia, where President Vladimir Putin - in a clear warning to the West - announced last weekend that he was putting his nuclear forces on high alert.

Mr Putin's foreign minister, Mr Sergei Lavrov, was quoted on Wednesday warning that a Third World War would be a nuclear conflict, remarks that added to growing unease.

The US military said on Wednesday it would postpone a scheduled test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.

"We recognise, at this moment of tension, how critical it is that both the United States and Russia bear in mind the risk of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday, announcing the move to establish the new hotline.

Follow The Straits Times' live coverage on the Ukraine crisis here.

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.