US No Longer Talking About Deconfliction Communications With Russia

After more than a year and a half of publicly acknowledging, and even praising, the deconfliction line set up between the US and Russia over flight safety in Syria, the Defense Department now says it will no longer discuss the status of these talks. In October 2015, the US and Russia agreed through a memorandum of understanding to set up a phone line between the US Combined Air Operations Center and Russian officials, which was used daily to deconflict flights over Syria. Following last week’s Tomahawk missile strikes against a Syrian air field, Russia said it would pull its involvement from the communication line. Since then, Pentagon and US Central Command officials have said they will not discuss deconfliction operations with Russia. “We can’t get into the business of discussing the day-to-day operations with regard to any discussions or lack thereof with regard to the deconfliction line,” Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian said Wednesday. “Doing so, from my conversations with the people that are directly involved in that before, is that that was not a productive thing to do. … we will not get back into that business.” On Tuesday, CENTCOM chief Gen. Joseph Votel said while the deconfliction line “has been very useful for us in the past as a venue for professional airmen-to-airmen exchange,” he is still confident in deconfliction even though he would not discuss the status of the communication line. The Pentagon has also in the past issued news releases every time there was a video teleconference between US Defense Department officials and Russian representatives on in-flight safety over Syria.