MOSCOW, Russia - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Thursday warned Washington against seeking cooperation from a "position of strength."
"We are ready to resume cooperation with the Pentagon, but attempts to build a dialogue with Russia from a position of strength would be futile," Russian news agencies quoted Shoigu as saying.
"We expect that Pentagon’s position will be clarified today in Baku, at a meeting between Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov and his US counterpart General Joseph Dunford," Shoigu added in a warning to the United States to refrain from any highhanded behavior.
The Russian defense minister's statement was in response to comments by U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
"We remain open to opportunities to restore a cooperative relationship with Moscow, while being realistic in our expectations and ensuring our diplomats negotiate from a position of strength," Mattis said during a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
Meanwhile, in the first meeting between the senior military members of the two countries' since Donald Trump was elected president last year, U.S. General Joe Dunford was set to hold talks with Russia's General Valery Gerasimov in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, today.
A statement released by Dunford's office said their agenda would focus on "the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises."
Ahead of the crucial meeting, Dunford, who is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the meeting with his Russian counterpart was " absolutely critical" in view of the escalating tensions between the two countries.
“I’m a believer in keeping lines of communication open no matter what. Even in the 1980s, we had a red phone, we talked to the Russians," he remarked.
“So military-to-military communications, regardless of how difficult the relationship may be at a given time ought to be something that you can do.”
Meanwhile, U.S. officials have said that there has been a recent surge in provocations by Russia ever since Trump's inauguration.
Of particular concern is a Russian spy ship which was some 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut, the farthest north the Russian spy vessel has ever ventured, according to a U.S. defense official.
The official said that the U.S. Navy is "keeping a close eye" on the ship, Viktor Leonov - a Vishnya-class spy ship, which is equipped with a variety of high-tech spying equipment and is designed to intercept signals intelligence.
The Viktor Leonov’s proximity to Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, is worrying the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies in the wake of a tumultuous week for U.S.-Russian relations.
The navy base in Groton is home to 15 nuclear submarines.
“We are aware of the vessel’s presence,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson told Fox News.
Since the ship has not entered U.S. territorial waters, Navy officials have not engaged the vessel or tried to alter its course.
“We respect freedom of navigation exercised by all nations beyond the territorial sea of a coastal state, consistent with international law,” Lt. Col. Henderson added.
Since the Russian vessel has not entered U.S. territory, which extends 12 miles into the ocean from the coast, officials have not taken action against it.
According to latest reports, the ship was no longer within 30 nautical miles, but was still in waters along the East Coast near Long Island Sound.