HELSINKI, Finland– The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today he is encouraged that his Russian counterpart reached out to keep the dialogue between the two countries open. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen met Russian army Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the General Staff, here this morning. The mood of the meeting was positive, Mullen said during an interview with reporters traveling with him following the meeting.

The chairman would not discuss the specifics of the meeting, but did sketch the general nature of the talks. He told reporters he went to listen and wanted to hear what Makarov had to say and what concerns he has.

The two men discussed Georgia, operations in the Black Sea, Afghanistan, and the relationship between NATO and Russia. While Russia has isolated itself with its invasion of Georgia in August, the United States and Russia have been able to cooperate in other areas, Mullen said. Russia, for example, has supported the U.S. position on Afghanistan in the United Nations Security Council, he noted.

“The most important part of [today’s meeting] was the dialogue and the commitment to continue the dialogue … into the future and not put us into an all-on or all-off situation,” Mullen said. “Obviously, the relationship has changed because of what happened in Georgia, but by no means does it – or should it – end.”

Mullen said he does not believe the two countries have cut off all relations, “nor do I believe that it should resume on the old plan, like Georgia didn’t occur.” The relationship should be somewhere in the middle of that continuum, he said.

“As I pointed out during the meeting, even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we were talking to each other,” he said.

The chairman said his Russian counterpart was personable and engaging. “I would characterize these as discussions,” he said. “[They were] not by rote or by reading a script. So it was an engagement, and it was a meaningful engagement across a lot of important areas.”

The two men covered other areas of mutual concern including the threat of Iran, counter-terrorism, counter-drug strategy and combating weapons of mass destruction, Mullen said. Concrete proposals would come out of the meeting, he added, but he wouldn’t discuss them.

The chairman said he was encouraged by the opportunity to speak face-to-face with Makarov, and that he is pleased that his Russian counterpart wants to stay engaged and involved.

“It’s also very important for all of us to walk the walk, not just talk the talk,” he said.

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