U.S. And NATO Strengthen Positions Along Russia's Southern Flank
On September 15 U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov signed a memorandum of understanding on military cooperation in Washington, D.C.
The two defense chiefs also issued a joint declaration committing their respective states to establishing a defense working group which will meet annually.
According to a spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, the two officials discussed what is euphemistically referred to as missile defense and ratification of the updated Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) agreement. In addition, "The parties also plan[ned] to focus on some problems of regional security, including the situation in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Caucasus," according to Itar-Tass.
The mainstream media in both countries will doubtlessly herald the news as further confirmation of warmer ties between the nations after the current U.S. administration succeeded that of George W. Bush in the tiresome seesaw of Republican-Democratic rotations that have gone on since 1852 with little enough substantive difference in foreign policy.
Obligatory and unimaginative references to a largely rhetorical "reset button" and similar cliche-mongering will be rife.
All's now right with the world whether or not God's in his Heaven, and the unfortunate contretemps that set in after then-Russian president Vladimir Putin dared to speak the truth about contemporary world affairs at the Munich Security Conference three years ago and the five-day war between Washington's client in Georgia and Russia of a year later has been relegated to the realm of the regrettable past.
Official Moscow is permitting the transit of non-lethal cargo across Russian territory for NATO's war in Afghanistan - evidently without any sense of historical irony - and there is talk of reactivating the NATO-Russia Council after the suspension of its work following the 2008 Caucasus war.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will tout his role in recalibrating relations with the world's sole military superpower and expect to harvest corresponding political rewards for himself and his United Russia party.
Russia's experience with military cooperation pacts, from that with Napoleon Bonaparte's France in 1807 to that of Adolf Hitler's Germany in 1939, might have taught it a lesson or two. But history is long and memory is short.
While Gates and Serdyukov discussed South and Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Pentagon, in its own right and through the global military bloc it controls, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has been doing more than talking.
Reports persist of the U.S. planning to set up new military training sites in the former Soviet Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, in addition to the Pentagon and NATO continuing to transit an estimated 50,000 troops a month through Kyrgyzstan for the war in Afghanistan and NATO running operations from an air base in the Tajik capital.
American troops and those of its British ally wrapped up ten days of 2010 Steppe Eagle military exercises in Kazakhstan, the one Central Asian nation that borders Russia.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet defense alliance led by Russia which also includes Belarus, Armenia and Uzbekistan. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan are the only nations outside of Europe to have been granted a NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan.
On September 11 of this year the CSTO's main rival in post-Soviet space, NATO, began disaster simulation exercises in Armenia under the auspices of the Alliance's Partnership for Peace program, one that includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. That is, all former Soviet republics except for Russia and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the last three full NATO members since 2004.
The Armenia 2010 exercise includes troops from 15 Partnership for Peace and Mediterranean Dialogue NATO partners. The Mediterranean Dialogue consists of Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Five warships with the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 docked in Morocco on September 16 to "allow NATO forces to develop cooperation with civil and military (Moroccan) authorities," according to a statement by the North Atlantic military alliance.