Russia and US march in post-Soviet step


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
Russia and US march in post-Soviet step

By M K Bhadrakumar

An unprecedented military parade in Red Square in Moscow on Sunday, when servicemen from the major North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries will march alongside Russian soldiers, will be a commemorative event marking the 65th anniversary of Victory Day in World War II. Arguably, it is not a parade of NATO troops but rather of Russia's erstwhile allies in the coalition against Adolf Hitler.

Nor are parades necessarily the stuff of real politics or the harbingers of military alliances. Yet, the political symbolism cannot entirely be lost when the Kremlin ramparts resonate with the march of American troops and Vladimir Lenin's mausoleum bears mute witness. The point is that while the 50th and 60th Victor Day anniversaries occurred in the post-Cold War era, they

saw no such "allied" parades. In fact, the United States almost acted as a "spoiler" by raking up controversies of Soviet history when the Kremlin marked the day with great pomp and circumstance five years ago.

Indeed, the parade on Sunday cannot be seen without reference to the ''convergence trend'' that has appeared in the Euro-Atlantic region - to cite Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He elaborated:
This trend is manifested with the improved atmosphere of Russia-US relations, including the elaboration of the new treaty replacing the START I [ Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty], further formation of the strategic partnership with the European Union and ongoing normalization at the Russia-NATO Council. Conditions are forming to overcome the Cold War bloc mentality in the European architecture and the consequential fears regarding spheres of influence.
Things seem to be falling into place. Washington didn't say "Aha!" when it became clear that Viktor Yanukovich, president of Ukraine, had begun to waffle with the Kremlin leadership and Cold Warriors voiced criticism that the Barack Obama administration was abandoning influence and power in the post-Soviet space.

Without doubt, the agreement between Moscow and Kiev on extending the deadline for the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea goes beyond the framework of Russian-Ukrainian relations. The kaleidoscope has moved and the situation is shifting simultaneously in several areas - Eurasia, East Europe's security and the Black Sea basin. That Ukraine delisted from setting bear-traps itself becomes a geopolitical shift of consequence and Russian security is unavoidably a pan-European issue - even a global one.

Yet the Obama administration behaved as if Yanukovich did the most natural thing. True, as Nicolai Petro, pointperson on Russia in the George H W Bush administration in the early years of the post-Soviet era, wrote recently:
It was always wishful thinking to believe that Ukraine where almost any poll taken in the past decade shows a 90 percent favorable view of Russians, and nearly one in five still holds out hope of the two countries becoming one state would be so easily torn away from Russia. If anything, [former president Viktor] Yushchenko's efforts to equate 'pro-Western' with 'anti-Russian' probably did more to undermine the popularity of the Orange Revolution than any other factor.''
'No' to 'sphere of influence' ...
What Petro wrote is equally applicable with regard to the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan. However, the US has taken a stance in Bishkek. The senior director for Russian and Central Asian affairs at the US National Security Council, Michael McFaul, underscored in Bishkek, the Kyrgyzstan capital, this week that the Obama administration had an entirely novel take on Central Asia.

McFaul insisted that through the power of Kyrgyzstan's example, ''it could also be a model for other countries about how to establish democratic institutions'.' He said openly:
We [the Obama administration] have strategic priority to support the development of democratic institutions and we have a variety of programs, we have a variety of American organizations that work in Kyrgyzstan to do that. They are supported by the American taxpayers ... their sources of funding are supported by the American government ... with this philosophy of dual-track engagement, we will continue to work with the government ... but in parallel we're also going to engage directly with the civil society, with independent media, with legal organizations, to also help to advance the democratic process here in Kyrgyzstan. It has to be both tracks; it cannot be one or the other.
Is the future of the US military base in Manas under Russian threat as a consequence? No, McFaul doesn't think so since the US and Russia have a "common interest" in fighting the extremists in Afghanistan and in any case, "President Obama has been very clear, he categorically rejects the notions of 'spheres of influence', the 'Great Game'."

McFaul's repudiation of Moscow's contention that it has "special interests" in the post-Soviet space, but his acknowledgement that it can have "common interests" with Washington casts the US stance on Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in an altogether different perspective.

Conceivably, the US hasn't really conceded Ukraine as a Russian "sphere of influence" but recognizes that Washington and Moscow have a "shared interest" in that country's stability. The hard reality is that the Ukrainian economy is perilously close to a risk of default and the country is situated close to the heart of Europe and it is bigger than Greece but not a member of the European Union.

Europe (or the US) is not in a position to salvage the Ukrainian economy through massive aid. And if Moscow shows the political will (and has enough financial surplus) to help brotherly Ukraine to the tune of US$4 billion per year - as payment for retaining the Sevastopol naval base for Russia's Black Sea Fleet - American interests are not damaged.

As prominent Russian politician Boris Nemtsov pointed out, "No one in the world is paying that kind of money for naval bases." The US, in comparison, pays a paltry $800 million a year to rent its huge naval base in Okinawa, Japan. The Black Sea Fleet comprises ships built 30 to 40 years ago and is incapable of threatening the US. The flagship of the fleet, the missile carrier Moskva, was commissioned in 1980. The fleet is in poor shape for combat activities with NATO. Besides, according to Nemtsov, "only an incurable optimist" would insist that Sevastopol is for Russia's keep for the next quarter century. Given the fluidity in Ukrainian politics, Yanukovich could always get replaced and the new leader may quote chapter and verse from a national constitution that forbids foreign military bases.

... but 'Yes' to common interests
All-in-all, the Obama administration is making a tantalizing proposition to Moscow: the post-Soviet republics can have "'you" as well as "us". If Moscow's strategic tie-up with Ukraine helps toward forging peace up to the Urals and thereby create conditions for Russia to focus on its modernization, the Obama administration is prepared to regard it as of "common interest". Similarly, the US's military base in Manas poses no threat to Russia's vital interests while it creates conditions for regional stability, which are of "common interest" to both Russia and the US.

Even the advent of democracy in Central Asia does not undercut Russian interests. The authoritarian regimes in the region are increasingly adept at playing off Moscow against Washington. Besides, the US is willing to concede, as McFaul phrased it with tremendous clarity during his Bishkek visit on Tuesday, "We [US] don't support one individual or one political view and we most certainly don't support an American-style democracy. That's not our policy at all. There are lots of varieties of democracy around the world. There is no one truth, there is no one way to build democracy."

In essence, McFaul virtually echoes the Kremlin's thought process and hopes to convince Russia that it may have a "common interest" in the democratization of the post-Soviet space. As Ukraine's example shows, color revolutions need not invariably result in anti-Russia regimes. Then, there are other signals.

The Obama administration has studiously distanced itself from Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili. The US ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, indicated that the US was willing to take in its stride the proposed sale of four French Mistral warships to Russia. He told Moskovsky Komsomolets, the Moscow daily newspaper, "The only question [about the Mistral sale] is the overall stability in the region. And I believe that it will not be infringed as a result of this agreement. [Moreover] we understand that this is an agreement between two sovereign countries."

The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty is back on the negotiating agenda with Russia and NATO has offered it could work with Russia on a missile shield. The US's energy czar, Richard Morningstar, has quietened, while Moscow dramatically advances the prospects of the South Stream gas pipeline that helps fasten a southern European/Balkan gas grid to Russian energy sources. It almost seems the purge of Russian influence from the Balkans was an error.

A US-Russia strategic understanding over the post-Soviet space is still some time away. It will take time to build mutual confidence that it would be a fool's errand for Washington to try to set the former Soviet republics against Russia, while equally, Moscow need not insist that the ''stans'' should route their dealings with the US via the Russian capital. The broader issue is whether the new START treaty heralded a new US-Russia relationship that, in turn, made the Russian-Ukrainian breakthrough possible.

Yanukovich indeed deferred to the Obama administration by surrendering Ukraine's weapons-grade plutonium - and that suggests some degree of coordinated US and Russian policies toward Ukraine.

Moscow remains calm about Manas and is unflustered by the ratcheting up of US influence in Bishkek. Can things move in the direction of a completely different nature of US-Russia equations in the post-Soviet space? Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan seem early signposts.


Senior Member
Apr 11, 2010
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New Treaty Would Give Best Look at Russian Weapons

Ratification of the new Strategic Arms Control and National Security Treaty would give the United States the most-detailed look possible into Russia's strategic nuclear forces, Pentagon officials told a Senate panel yesterday.

James N. Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, and Kenneth A. Myers III, director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and U.S.Strategic Command's Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, were the latest senior Defense Department officials to testify before Congress in favor of the treaty's ratification. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty on April 8.

Miller and Myers told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the treaty's provisions for on-site inspections are an improvement on the previous START treaty. And, it's critical to resume such inspections, the two officials said, since the previous treaty expired in April 2009.

Miller said on-site inspections "provide the cornerstone of the treaty's verification regime," allowing U.S. inspectors into some of Russia's most-sensitive facilities.

"This, in turn, will establish a strong disincentive to Russian cheating," he said. "More broadly, these inspections and exhibitions will give us a detailed picture of Russia'sstrategic delivery systems and associated infrastructure."

The treaty allows the United States and Russia to conduct as many as 18 short-notice, on-site inspections each year, with as many as 10 "Type 1" inspections, which focus onstrategic systems, such as ICBMs, submarines and bombers, and up to eight "Type 2" inspections, which cover storage sites, test ranges and other facilities, Miller said.

On-site inspections work in synergy with other elements of the treaty, including data exchanges on the technical characteristics, locations, and distribution of weapons,Miller said. Under the treaty, any changes in the status of strategic systems must be reported through timely notifications and biannual reports, he said.

On-site inspections will confirm that information, including the conversion or elimination of systems, Miller said.

"Inspections will not be 'shots in the dark,'" he said. "We can choose to inspect those facilities of greatest interest to us."

If the United States has concerns or sees ambiguities in Russia's reported data, U.S. officials will be able to raise them through a bilateral commission, or pursue the matter at higher levels,Miller said.

Myers, a former staff member of the committee, said the new treaty improves on the previous one by reducing the types of on-site inspections from nine to two, and by not providing for a baseline inspection of every facility. In negotiating the new treaty, both sides agreed that it would not be necessary to conduct baseline inspections at facilities that had been subject to inspection under the previous treaty, he said.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency will staff, train, equip, and lead U.S. inspection teams in Russia and escort Russian inspectors at U.S. facilities, Myers said. The agency, based at Fort Belvoir, Va., will maintain detachments at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Travis Air Force Base, Calif., as well as at its division in Darmstadt, Germany, he said.

Under the treaty, 35 facilities in Russia and 17 in the United States would be subject to inspections, Myers said. Russian inspectors would be permitted entry into the United States viaWashington and San Francisco, escorted by DTRA officials, he said. Each side would have to give 32 hours notice during normal working hours before a short-notice inspection.

While the new treaty allows for fewer inspections than the previous one, Myers said, inspections of weapons systems will be more difficult. DTRA already is training inspection and escort personnel on the provisions of the new treaty, and their initial certifications are under way, he said.

"We will be prepared to carry out all of its inspection and escort provisions with the utmost accuracy and efficiency," Myers told the committee.

If ratified, the new treaty would be carried out in conjunction with the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, a 20-year-old effort to advancenuclear non-proliferation around the world, Miller said. As of June 21, the program has supported the elimination of 783 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 672 ICBM launchers; 651 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and 476 SLBM launchers; 155 heavy bombers; 906 air-to-surface missiles; and deactivation of 7,545nuclear warheads.

"The CTR program has made a tremendous contribution to U.S. national security and will continue to do so under the new START treaty," Miller said. Biological threat reduction now comprises 40 percent of the program's budget, he added.

The new treaty and the CTR program together are critical to national security, Miller said.

"This level of detailed information on Russian strategic forces could simply not be accumulated in the absence of a treaty verification regime," he said. "The new START, if ratified, will promote transparency and help avoid worst-case assumptions and planning."


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May 4, 2012
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