But the words of President Vladimir Putin of Russia and others at the top of the Russian hierarchy have sent an icy chill though relations between Russia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the U.S.
In just the last week:
--Russia reinstituted long range bomber surveillance patrols of U.S. vital areas including the military installation at Guam and our aircraft carriers at sea. These are the first routine bomber patrols since the Cold War.
--Russia joined with China and several oil-rich Central Asian former Soviet Republics who are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), to conduct war game maneuvers.
For the first time ever, Russia hosted Chinese soldiers in peaceful yet provocative training exercised on Russian soil. The U.S. Embassies in Moscow and Beijing said the United States had requested participation in the events but were informed that any U.S. participation or observers would not be welcome.
“Diplomacy between Russia and the West is increasingly being overshadowed by military gestures,” says Sergei Strokan, a foreign-policy expert with the independent daily Kommersant. “It’s clear that the Kremlin is listening more and more to the generals and giving them more of what they want.”
Said President Putin at the SCO’s largest annual gathering of regional leaders ever, "Year by year, the SCO is becoming a more substantial factor in ensuring security in the region," he said. "Russia, like other SCO states, favors strengthening the multi-polar international system providing equal security and development potential for all countries. Any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally have no future," he added.
Ex-Soviet members of the SCO include Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.
For more than two years the SCO, prompted largely by Russia, has called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from two member countries, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan evicted American forces that were supporting American and NATO operations in Afghanistan, but Kyrgyzstan still hosts a U.S. base. Russia also maintains a military base in Kyrgyzstan.
Much of regional wrangling and politics in Central Asia relates to oil. Russia’s new hubris and military activity is funded by recent oil wealth. China has an agreement to buy Russian oil and during this last week the leaders of China and Kazakhstan agreed to finance and build a network of pipelines to supply China with oil and gas from the Caspian Sea region.
"The SCO clearly wants the US to leave Central Asia; that's a basic political demand," says Ivan Safranchuk, Moscow director of the independent World Security Institute. "That's one reason why the SCO is holding military exercises, to demonstrate its capability to take responsibility for stability in Central Asia after the US leaves."
Believing that the U.S. too greatly dominates the post-Cold War world, Russia and China agreed to for a "strategic partnership.” The creation of the SCO in 2001 is a key part of that relationship. But the outreach by Russia and China to leaders like Iran’s Ahmadinejad has caused western analysts to refer to the SCO as the "club of dictators" or “OPEC with nukes.”
Moreover, a year’s worth of bellicose rhetoric from Mr. Putin worries many western observers.
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