February 25, 2009
Exclusive: Russia on the Move – Putin Comes Up with an Alternative to NATO
Dr. Robin McFee
“All warfare is based on deception” – Sun Tzu
Last week, Russia and six ex-satellite nations – former Soviet States – agreed to jointly (translation – Mother Russia rules) create a special military force designed to challenge the influence of NATO. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) members Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyztan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have also pledged to deploy their “special forces” units as well as collaboratively contribute to this new military alliance. According to several sources, the scope of the military presence will be significant – the name “rapid reaction unit” notwithstanding. In typical Russia-speak, language designed to deceive, this will not be a SWAT team or even a SEAL team in the U.S. definition of “rapid reaction” force, to handle small insurgent attacks, but a force to be reckoned with.
Russia, increasingly sensitive of .U.S and Western influences with their border nations, has expended significant effort and various forms of persuasion – economic, military, energy and political – to rein in or reestablish relations with the “Stan” nations and others critical to creating a buffer zone. Moreover, the members of the CSTO have valuable transit routes for United States interests – supply lines and military bases to support the war effort in Afghanistan, and Russia – pipeline routes for oil and gas.
Though publicly billed to be able to suppress “terrorist” aggression, Dmitry Medvedev let there be no room to miss the Sicilian message “the military alliance would allow operational reaction to threats and would not be less powerful than NATO forces.” The Armenian president Serzh Sarkisian tried to put a more temporizing tone – “the rapid reaction force is aimed at strengthening the military capacity of our organization.” Uh huh – sounds good, but Medvedev (here to fore considered “Putin lite”) was letting the world know….”we’re baaaaack!”
The “Stan” nations are critical to US interests. Russia is turning the screws on us at every opportunity. Putin has a map; where is global AAA when we need them? U.S. foreign policy is lost and leaderless, if you exclude the military. Consider we have just lost a key military supply base in Uzbekistan; Putin may, repeat may allow us to use it for non military supplies. Big deal! That base was important for our Afghanistan (MILITARY) efforts. But “Putin, Inc” has been tossing money, military and probably a few babes towards the “Stans” and wooing them back, much more than the CSTO of the past would have revealed. These nations are important for our war on terrorists. But, they are essential in Russia’s romp to the sea – giving a virtually uninterrupted region of states from the Motherland to Iran, Iraq and surrounding Turkey.
Which brings me to the question – how many “friends” can we afford to lose? You don’t have military bases in countries without some friendship developing. We are letting Uzbekistan slip through our fingers.
Turkey is perhaps one of the most critically important nations to U.S. interests abroad, and we are losing hold on and influence with it. Last week, the president of Turkey and his Russian counterpart (dare I name him again?) met. I don’t think it was over the price of beluga caviar or sturgeon fishing rights… do you? Hold your friends close and your enemies closer. Historically, the U.S. and Turkey have had reason for common ground and cooperation. Our military bases have been there for years and are strategically a key to our influence in the region. Turkey is geographic cross roads for commerce, military operations and another key energy transit nation. They are a moderate voice in a volatile Islamic region. Turkey is one of the few Muslim nations – secular or not – to recognize Israel.
We cannot afford to lose our closeness with such an important friend. Mr. Obama – make nice to Istanbul. Don’t take Turkey for granted.
Russia is reestablishing an umbilical relationship with Syria. Missiles, a navy presence, commercial ties in technology and energy, and the realization that such an alliance can significantly alter the balance in the Middle East. In the process of sending the Russian Navy to the Mediterranean, docking several ships at the Syrian port of Tartus – Putin visibly demonstrated his rejection of the 1992 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) which sought to limit Russian military presence along its European borders. It is likely Iranian Kilo class submarines could join the party. It is well known much of Iran’s armaments are Russian made. And Obama thinks Russia will be an ally? There are too many reasons to discount that likelihood without some “audacity” and courage that doesn’t include “hope” (it isn’t a strategy).