The official visit of President Vladimir Putin to the US was accompanied with unprecedented victories of the Northern Alliance over the Talibs. The drawn out combat, which the anti-Talib coalition forces have been conducting for over a month, grew into a comprehensive offensive in all fronts in a few days. All northern provinces were cleared from the Talibs, and all largest cities were taken under control. These cities included the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. As a result of a month of siege and “carpet bombing” by the US Air Force, the Northern Alliance seized Mazar-e Sharif. The strategic Iranian-speaking Herat was liberated in the west. Talibs fled from Kandahar. At present, forces of the Northern Alliance and its allies control over 50% of the territory of Afghanistan.
These victories became possible not only due to the American air strikes but also due to Russia’s assistance. Putin announced that Russia’s aid to Afghanistan amounted to millions of dollars. In the US, Putin said that he supported a resolution of Washington to eradicate the terrorism. Putin expressed his hope for the establishment of a new partnership with the US. According to the Russian President, in relations with the Americans this task “is more important than the achievement of immediate material advantages.”
Thus, Moscow finally revised principles of its relations with the US. Of course, Moscow revised these principles not at the expense of its own security. Proceeding from the need to cut military budget expenditures, the Kremlin proposed a reduction of the number of nuclear charges in Russian and American stockpiles almost by 66.67%. Defending of the ABM Treaty of 1972 is also a reliable barrier in the path of the armament race for which Russia is not ready. Strategic initiatives of the Kremlin are understandable and do not cause any questions. However, in the field of geopolitics Russia seems to have no clear goals. In other words, it seems that Russia is not going to protect its interests in various regions of the world. The country unilaterally liquidated its military bases in Vietnam and on Cuba and reduced peacekeeping contingents in Bosnia and Kosovo. Against the background of NATO’s eastward expansion, Russia is withdrawing forces and armament from Transcaucasia and the Trans-Dniester Republic. The most interesting phenomenon has to do with the situation in Central Asia. Moscow either silently agreed with the military presence of the US in CIS republics or failed to hinder the Pentagon efforts aimed at the arrangement of military bases there. Such bases are already operating in Uzbekistan. From Haidarabad, American Special Forces performed their raids to Mazar-e Sharif. Tajikistan is the next. It is known that in Tajikistan the Pentagon is going to establish a bridgehead for attacks of tactical aviation on the Talibs. At any rate, it seems that the battleground is gradually moving towards Pakistan. It will be more convenient for the Americans to reach Djalalabad or Kandahar, where the main forces of terrorists are concentrated, from there. Why does the US need insufficiently prepared airfields of Tajikistan? According to Russian military experts, the US has only one goal: to use the Afghan factor and to establish its presence in Central Asian countries of the CIS.
Americans needs not only Tajikistan but also other countries. Thus, the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” reported that a few days ago, President Niyazov of Turkmenistan agreed with the US, Russia and Turkey on the leasing of one of its main bases. A few hundred soldiers of American Special Forces already arrived to this base. Most likely, this is the former largest Soviet air base. This base is located on the main road through Kushka to Herat. The road goes along the Murgab River in the valley of which Presidents Niyazov of Turkmenistan and Karimov of Uzbekistan plan to build a gas pipeline and electric power transmission line to Pakistan.
American and other forces will be a good guarantor of the pipelines and electric line construction towards the Indian Ocean after the restoration of peaceful life in Afghanistan. The US and NATO plan to establish their presence in Central Asia seriously and for a long time, say Russian military experts.
It seems that almost the entire Northern Afghanistan is liberated from the Talibs, but the so-called international military contingents from the US, UK, Turkey, Germany and so on are going to move there. From the military standpoint it is not understandable why this is necessary. The answer is obvious: to protect future pipelines.
This is not beneficial for Moscow but its position in this respect is not clear. The Kremlin either pretends not to notice actions of the US and its allies or releases general statements on support of the military operations against the Talibs. Meanwhile, Iran and China frankly say that they are against the war and advocate a peaceful solution of the Afghan problem. Even Pakistani President Musharraf spoke against the bombing of Afghanistan during the sacred month of Ramadan. However, Washington neglected proposals of the Moslem world to suspend the bombing during the religious holiday. Russia also did not express its position and hence silently supported Pentagon.
Thus, the Kremlin demonstrates a position loyal to Washington. The visit of Putin to the US showed that Russia was prepared to make concessions with regard to some geo-strategic issues. How much justified are these concessions? Is it possible that Washington will win from the dialog with Moscow in a unilateral manner? Having found compromises with regard to the antimissile defense and strategic arms reduction problems Moscow is totally losing in the geopolitical field. The deployment of American bases in Afghanistan is already a fact.
Meanwhile, military bases of the US and NATO may become the factor of security of possible pipelines and electric lines from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the Indian Ocean. This means that not only military but very soon the economic interests of the US and Russia in Central Asia may clash.