Geopoliticalmonitor.com

FORECAST

Flexing its growing international clout while American geopolitical power continues to decline precipitously, Russia is further developing the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) into a post-Cold War Warsaw Pact.

Russia announced the creation of CSTO’s joint rapid-reaction force, a counter to NATO, this past Wednesday.  The rapid-reaction force is to ostensibly combat terrorism, military aggression, and drug trafficking in the CSTO zone.  However, Russia’s announcement is indication it has conceded defeat in eastern Europe and has instead moved to recapture influence lost in central Asia due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia has already succeeded in its first major geopolitical move through CSTO: the President of CSTO member Kyrgyzstan unilaterally, and unexpectedly, announced while visiting Russia that his country is immediately ceasing the U.S. military’s right to use its Manas air base.  The U.S. has been leasing the base, which is a major supply hub for U.S. troops and cargo, for $150 million per year, however, that amount does not equal the $2 billion Russia has offered its fellow CSTO member in aid.

Kyrgyzstan’s decision to close Manas to the U.S. is significant, for the air base is essential to the NATO effort in Afghanistan.  Since Afghanistan is a landlocked country, the only way to insert cargo and support hundreds of thousands of troops is over land. NATO has been inserting its troops primarily through the central Asian countries to the north of Afghanistan (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan).  However, the timing of Kyrgyzstan’s decision, Russia’s economic largesse, and the creation of a rapid-reaction force lends credence to the argument that Russia is moving rapidly to cut-off the U.S. military from accessing Afghanistan from the north in order to shape and influence Afghan security.

Since China and Iran border Afghanistan to the east and west respectively, NATO has had to rely on Pakistan to move the bulk of its cargo.  However, the bulk of that cargo has had to travel through vulnerable supply routes under control or threat by anti-American militants operating in the FATA and NWFP regions of Pakistan’s lawless border with Afghanistan, en route over the narrow Khyber Pass between the two countries.

The Tuesday destruction of a bridge crossing the Khyber Pass and the subsequent torching of ten NATO cargo vehicles underscore the dangers facing NATO supply routes through Pakistan.

Because Pakistan is far too vulnerable to be used as a supply route for troops, U.S. troops have been deployed via the central Asian countries to the north of Afghanistan, highlighting the crucial necessity of NATO maintaining the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan. Losing access to bases in central Asia would essentially end the NATO campaign in Afghanistan.  There is simply no feasible way to maintain the logistics necessary in occupying Afghanistan without a reliable base nearby.

NATO’s precarious situation in procuring supply routes for its forces in Afghanistan is so dire that NATO’s top commander, secretary-general Jaap de Hoof Scheffer announced on Tuesday that NATO members of the Afghan mission may consider entering into individual agreements with Iran to use its territory for supplying their troops in Afghanistan.

If NATO countries begin to engage with Iran, that could signal the end of the UN sanctions regime targeting the Iranian nuclear program – yet another victory for Russia, which plans on initiating a Russian-built nuclear reactor in Iran by the end of the year.

With just weeks to go before the Obama administration’s planned troop escalation into Afghanistan, which must pass through the central Asian territories belonging to the CSTO, conditions are most favourable for Russia to extract maximum concessions from the U.S.

Rewards may have already begun for Russia.

The Obama administration has leaked information that it will seek to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expiring at the end of the year, to levels closer to the current Russian limit – a move critically necessary to Russia in maintaining a relevant parity with the U.S military.

In return, just yesterday, Russia announced that it will allow non-lethal U.S. supplies to cross through its territory onwards to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

It appears that Russia is squeezing the U.S. in a manner it similarly squeezed the European Union during the recent manufactured “gas crisis” that stopped Russian gas through Ukraine to Europe.

Formed in 2002, the CSTO is a mutual defense alliance made up of former Soviet republics from central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Armenia, along with the eastern European state of Belarus, and Russia.

 

SUMMARY OF EVENTS: February 2 – 9, 2009

WORLD

At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, American policies were rebuked again and again in rhetoric that recalled the anger of the Bush years — mainly aimed at what the world views as the new threat of protectionism by the United States.

NORTH AMERICA

United States

The banner headlines greeting President Obama’s decision to close the detention centre at Guantánamo Bay and secret CIA prisons may have concealed how he has retained one of the most controversial weapons in the War on Terror: renditions.

US President Barack Obama came under pressure on Tuesday to resist protectionism in reaction to the global economic crisis as top companies announced massive losses and protests broke out in Europe.

Obama’s freshly-confirmed Attorney General, Eric Holder, has opened the door to shedding light on a raft of clandestine legal memoranda issued in the name of the ‘War on Terror’ under President George W. Bush.

The U.S. Defense Department concluded in 2007 that Blackwater Worldwide contractors cannot be prosecuted under federal law for a shooting incident in Iraq that left 17 civilians dead.

Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove “won’t comply” with congressional subpoenas, according to a newspaper report of an event held in Los Angeles earlier this week.

As it fights two wars, the Pentagon is steadily and dramatically increasing the money it spends to win what it calls “the human terrain” of world public opinion. In the process, it is raising concerns of spreading propaganda at home in violation of federal law.

The Bush administration turned the U.S. military into a global propaganda machine while imposing tough restrictions on journalists seeking to give the public truthful reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Associated Press chief executive Tom Curley said Friday.

WESTERN EUROPE

NATO said Wednesday it would be a worry if Russia were found to have had a role in Kyrgyzstan’s decision to close a U.S. military air base which supplies U.S.-led troops fighting in Afghanistan.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has strongly urged the United States to withdraw its opposition to the release of evidence on the alleged torture of a former British Guantanamo Bay detainee.

Britain

The British government says that the United States threatened to withhold shared intelligence if evidence of the torture of a UK citizen at Guantanamo Bay is released.

EASTERN EUROPE

Georgia

Georgia’s separatist region of Abkhazia plans to sign a deal allowing Russia to build two new military bases there despite protests from the European Union and the United States, Abkhaz officials said.

MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Iran said it had launched a domestically made satellite into orbit for the first time on Tuesday, prompting further concern among Western powers and in Israel over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Israel/Palestinian Territories

Israel carried out air strikes and Palestinians launched mortar bomb attacks Monday despite a ceasefire in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but Israel’s defense minister said a wider offensive was not imminent.

EAST ASIA

China

China will accelerate the build-up of its nuclear and conventional arsenal to form a credible deterrent, the general in charge of the country’s strategic missile force said.

North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Saturday accused the United States and South Korea of committing more than 180 cases of aerial spying in January.

North Korea may be preparing to use the site of its previous ballistic missile launches on the east coast to fire its longest range missile, possibly toward Japan, news reports said on Wednesday.

North Korea could be looking to stir up tension by firing short-range missiles at a disputed maritime border with the South, while it may also launch its longest-range missile to check design improvements, reports said on Friday.

CENTRAL ASIA

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan vowed Tuesday it would order the closure of a US airbase on its soil whose presence has irritated Moscow, on the same day it received a generous Russian financial aid package.

Kyrgyzstan said on Friday its decision to shut a U.S. air base in the Central Asian country was final.

SOUTH ASIA

India

India has for the first time directly accused Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence agency — the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — of involvement in last year’s Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan

Suspected militants blew up a bridge in northwestern Pakistan’s Khyber Pass on Tuesday, cutting the main route for supplies bound for Western forces in Afghanistan, Pakistani government officials said.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s president predicted Wednesday the total defeat of Tamil Tigers rebels within “a few days,” as international pressure grew for a ceasefire to allow civilians to leave the last combat zone.

AFRICA

DR Congo/Uganda

The American military helped plan and pay for a recent attack on a notorious Ugandan rebel group, but the offensive went awry, scattering fighters who carried out a wave of massacres as they fled, killing as many as 900 civilians.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s parliament on Thursday approved constitutional amendments that will pave the way for a unity government next week, in a bid to haul the country out of economic and political crisis.

Manjit Singh is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com