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NATO Secretary General to discuss high-priority issues in Moscow

RIA Novosti

21:33 15/12/2009 MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin) - Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 12th Secretary General, is to pay his first official visit to Moscow on December 15.

Although NATO will prioritize its relationship with Russia in the next three days, Rasmussen's visit is taking place against the backdrop of the unprecedented buildup of U.S., NATO and non-NATO troops, part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Washington also plans to beef up elements of the Afghan army, due to total 134,000 troops by October 2010 and to increase it by another 100,000 soldiers by 2014.

ISAF contingents will increase by 37,000 soldiers, thereby exceeding 140,000. Consequently, international and Afghan elements of ISAF will reach almost 300,000 officers and men.

However, it is unclear why the extremely unreliable Afghan army is included in ISAF.

The West will face mind-boggling logistics-support problems because it will have to supply ISAF contingents with uniforms, footwear, weapons, food and medication and will also have to train them.

NATO believes that Russia is the best route for supplying ISAF, and that Russian military and police instructors are best suited for training Afghan personnel. In fact, Afghans would prefer their mentality, as well as their simple and effective training methods, to Western methods and way of thinking.

Moreover, virtually the entire Afghan army wields Soviet-made small firearms and military equipment.

Moscow which has already trained several thousand Afghan police officers in combating illicit drug trafficking continues to train new police officers and agents and has accumulated the requisite experience.

It may be strange, but Afghans trust battle-hardened Russian instructors more than their U.S. and British counterparts.

Rasmussen has brought with him a document listing several dozen military products and services needed by NATO from Russia. According to Rasmussen, these provisions will make it possible to elevate NATO-Russia relations to the levels of genuine strategic partnership.

The Rasmussen List includes several hundred thousand modified versions of AK-47 assault rifles, heavy machine-guns, handguns, rocket launchers, mortars, man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), artillery systems and armored personnel carriers.

NATO would also like Moscow to deliver at least six Antonov An-32 Cline military transport aircraft (in addition to the four currently operated by Afghanistan), as well as helicopters and trucks.

Brussels has every reason to assume that Afghanistan became accustomed to Soviet-made weapons and equipment long ago, and that it is pointless to retrain the Afghan army with NATO standards.

Nor does Brussels have the time and funding to do this because most of its allocations are used to finance NATO forces. Consequently, Russia could provide priceless assistance to NATO, the world and itself in this respect.

The Kremlin is willing to examine the Rasmussen List and to ship nearly all the required items.

However, NATO diplomats and military analysts are saying off the record that Brussels is hoping Moscow will deliver large consignments of Russian weapons to Afghanistan free of charge because the United States and NATO would otherwise have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on weapons purchases.

But neither Washington, nor Brussels have allocated funding for large-scale weapons purchases next year or in 2011.

Moreover, NATO is not hiding its desire to see Russia to deploy its troops in Afghanistan.

Rasmussen will discuss all these issues with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The purpose of his current Moscow visit is to enlist Moscow's assistance in pacifying Afghanistan. Consequently, Rasmussen will have no choice but to discuss the new European security treaty as advocated by Medvedev.

Although there have been no official statements so far, NATO has quietly rejected the Russian proposal dealing with a new European security system because Brussels thinks this encroaches on NATO's own role as the guarantor of member-states' security from the three Baltic states to Lisbon and therefore does not plan to accept the Medvedev plan.

Rasmussen will also try and persuade Moscow to accept U.S. President Barak Obama's new missile-defense plan for Europe. The NATO Secretary General says the alliance is even willing to include Russia in the new European missile-defense system.

It appears that Moscow and Brussels will remain partners, as long as the Taliban confronts ISAF in Afghanistan. But the Taliban will remain there for a long time. Moreover, U.S. forces will not be leaving Afghanistan in the next 18 months, as Obama promised in November.

The Pentagon admits that this was an ill-conceived statement. The United States will continue to fight in Afghanistan for the next four to five years, at least.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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