Austin and Russia’s New Defense Minister Speak via Phone for the First Time

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III spoke by phone on Tuesday with Russia’s new defense minister, Andrei Belousov, the Pentagon said, in a rare conversation between the Biden administration and Moscow.

This was the first phone call between the two men since Mr. Belousov, an economist, replaced Sergei K. Shoigu, Russia’s long-running defense minister, in a Kremlin shake-up in May.

Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said that Mr. Austin “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.”

Mr. Austin initiated Tuesday’s call and “believes that keeping lines of communication open are important,” General Ryder said.

The lack of communications between senior Russian military and defense officials and their American counterparts has fed fears at the Pentagon of miscalculation risks.

Mr. Austin and Mr. Belousov “exchanged views on the situation around Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. It added that Mr. Belousov “pointed to the danger of further escalation of the situation in connection with the continued supply of American weapons to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Anton Troianovski contributed reporting.

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