US and Russian officials on Wednesday held a video conference on flight safety over Syria, the Pentagon announced. Army Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke, the vice director for strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff, and Elissa Slotkin, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, spoke with Russian counterparts to “ensure that each side continues to adhere to agreed-upon measures to mitigate incidents in the air over Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement. It was the first meeting since both sides met in March and comes as Russia has helped Syria retake the rebel-held city of Aleppo. Meanwhile, US aircraft moved in to destroy Russian equipment in the ISIS-held town of Palmyra after the group was able to retake the area. More than 20 aircraft participated in the strike, which was the biggest of the year by the US-led coalition and destroyed tanks and almost 170 ISIS oil tankers, according to an Air Force news release.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.