NATO retreats. To Russia06.02.2012 | 20:51
Looks like NATO peacekeeprs will be coming back home via Ulyanovsk. As rumored by diplomatic sources, this decision should be made in Moscow very soon. It is expected that the military equipment will be brought to a new transit center by air and reloaded into trains going to Europe. GTimes correspondent discusses prospects of transit and possible threats for Russian security with Igor Korotchenko, a member of the Public Council at the Ministry of Defense.
In 2006, when NATO entered Afghanistan in order to destroy the Taliban, the alliance did not expect it would have leave this Islamic republic via Russia five years later. Basically, the alliance has no other way out. In the past NATO troops used Uzbekistan as a transit area. Presently, however, the authorities of the republic are alarmed that together with echelons of military equipment the country will host hundreds of kilograms of drugs. After all, it is impossible to check all trains.
As for Russia, Brussels showed its interest in dealing with Moscow rather quickly. Basically, cooperation over the Afghan issue became one of the reasons for NATO-Russian "reset". The Russian Federation did not posturize: in 2010 Dmitry Medvedev and US president Barack Obama agreed to transit cargos from Afghanistan to the so-called Northern supply network from Afghanistan. NATO forces actively used the corridor carrying nearly 65% of all cargos to Afghanistan via Russian sky. Over 35,000 members of US personnel and soldiers reached the Islamic republic via Russian roots having made, in total, 12,000 flights.
A few months later Moscow and NATO agreed to organize a return cargo transit route from Afghanistan to the Russian territory. Facilitated regime of land transit is used for armored vehicles with reinforced anti-mine protection designed for transportation of civil personnel - armored Hummers and Mercedeces.
With the fast pull-out of the 100,000 strong NATO group from Afghanistan going on now, the alliance needs more Russian help - peacekeepers must leave the Islamic republic before 2014. As the press found out, Moscow and Brussels have already held talks over creation of a transit center in Russia choosing Ulyanovsk as the best option. Diplomatic sources assure that the town is ideal as a return transit site for its airport and railway network location. All sides benefit from this: Brussels saves air fuel, since jets carrying military equipment will fly to Ulyanovsk and then go home by trains. The Russian side, providing cargo flow, will get significant financial revenues to the treasury.
However, the expert community is not unanimous over this agreement. Some specialists think that arrival of battle-worthy NATO machines in Russia is pure and simple occupation. Besides, transit may go via cities connected with the system of strategic nuclear forces. There is a possibility that NATO forces might partially study the operative battle ground and get detailed knowledge of road network. Knowing that the European missile shield issue is not solved, this prospect does not look positive.
GTimes correspondent got in touch with Igor Korotchenko, member of the Public Council at the Ministry of Defense asking him to comment on possible threats arising out of redeployment of NATO equipment via Russia. He emphasized that the decision over transit will be political and all depends on whether Moscow and Brussels will agree on the European missile defense. Most probably, this decision will be taken by a new president of Russia taking into account opinions of the Ministry of defense and Federal Security Service. "In any case Russia wants the situation in Afghanistan to be stable, - our interlocutor is sure. - Speaking about threats, today, at the time of satellite intelligence, the territory of the Russian Federation is studied well. As for movement of NATO forces in places where strategic nuclear forces are located, we are taking measures in order to counteract foreign technical intelligence means. We will have no leaks".