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Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China

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Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China
Rick Rozoff

On April 11, the day before the two-day Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, DC, U.S. President Barack Obama met with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev and their deliberations resulted in the U.S. obtaining the right to fly troops and military equipment over (and later directly into) the territory of Kazakhstan for the escalating war in Afghanistan.

Michael McFaul, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and senior director of Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the United States National Security Council, "told reporters in a conference call that the agreement will allow troops to fly directly from the United States over the North Pole to the region."

McFaul directly stated, "This will save money; it will save time in terms of moving our troops and supplies needed into the theater." The Washington Post cited other White House officials claiming "Sunday's meeting between Obama and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was the turning point," [1] an allusion to the advance it signified over the last agreement on military transport for the Afghan war signed between the two countries in January, which permitted the transport of only non-lethal American military supplies and equipment across the country by rail.

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The government of Kazakhstan has also allowed limited flights containing non-lethal military cargo over its territory, but that entailed a lengthy and circuitous route from the eastern United States to Europe and over the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, ultimately headed to the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, which is currently in jeopardy after the overthrow of the government in that nation on April 7.

However, now "Kazakhstan has agreed to let the United States fly troops and weapons over its territory, a deal that opens a direct and faster route over the North Pole for American forces and lethal equipment headed to Afghanistan." [2]

The new arrangement will also substitute for a previous one under which U.S. military cargo planes flew combat troops and materiel to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, from there to air bases in Kuwait and other destinations in the Persian Gulf, circumventing Iran which forbids American military overflights, and then either directly into the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or to Pakistan. The second option often entails using treacherous land routes subject to regular attacks by militants on the Pakistani side of the border.

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The Pentagon has also been working on a sea and land route beginning at the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti and from there to fellow Caucasus nation Azerbaijan and that country's Caspian Sea neighbors Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, conspicuously circumventing Russia, as do the oil and natural gas pipelines the West has promoted to transport hydrocarbons in the opposite direction, from Kazakhstan to the Black Sea.

"The new route over the North Pole to Bagram Air Base, the military's main air hub in Afghanistan, will allow troops to fly direct from the United States in a little more than 12 hours." [3]

The Air Force Times detailed that "Flying over Russia and Kazakhstan means Air Force cargo jets could fly from Alaska to Afghanistan without refueling, U.S. Transportation Command officials have said. Chartered passenger jets could leave from Chicago and fly over the North Pole to deliver troops." [4]

Colonel Jon Chicky, a faculty member at the National Defense University, said of the new transport route, "Just look at a map, it's a lot easier to go over the polar ice cap than all the way across the Atlantic and Europe." [5]

U.S. military planes would necessarily have to fly over Russia from the North Pole to reach Kazakhstan, but there is no information that Russia has approved such overflights.

Sunday's deal is the latest in a steady and expanding series of moves by the Pentagon and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to establish a permanent military outpost in Kazakhstan, the most critically important spot on the earth for the West to monitor its two main potential challengers and to hold joint Russian-Chinese initiatives like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [6] in check (if not to tear the heart out of them). Kazakhstan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as well as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) along with Russia and five other former Soviet states. In terms of land mass it is the second largest member of the CSTO and the third most populous behind Russia and Uzbekistan.

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The geopolitical significance of the country in general has not escaped the U.S. since the day the Soviet Union was fragmented into its fifteen federal republics in 1991 and has been an even greater cynosure of Washington's attention since Barack Obama was elected president on November 4, 2008.

And with good reason. Kazakhstan borders Kyrgyzstan, the most vital transit country for the war in Afghanistan, where according to U.S. Central Command 50,000 U.S. troops passed through on their way to and from Afghanistan last month alone. [7]

It also borders Uzbekistan, which evicted U.S. military forces in 2005, and fellow Caspian Sea nation Turkmenistan, a country in transition since the death of President Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006 and until now the only state from the Balkans to Central Asia not pulled into the Pentagon's and NATO's greater Afghan war network.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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