What it was, and remains, is an effort to work with Russia on key national security priorities where U.S. and Russian interests overlap, while not hesitating to push back on disagreements with the Kremlin at the same time. The idea is that engagement, by opening up channels of communication and diminishing antagonism, should — over time — allow Washington to at least influence problematic Russian behavior and open up more space in Russia’s tightly orchestrated domestic politics.
At the core of the reset policy is a determination that “linkage” — making bilateral cooperation on a given issue dependent on a given country’s behavior on other matters — is an ineffective instrument when dealing with states that are neither ally nor enemy. That’s especially true for great powers like China and Russia, which, whether Americans like it or not, play a major role on global issues that matter.
The usual tactic that the “reset-bashers” use when attacking this policy is to point to some Russian government move that Americans find objectionable, and declare on the basis of this or that episode that “the reset has failed.” Of course, what bothers the “reset-bashers” is precisely that the policy has not failed and keeps working, and their preferred policy of confrontation has been shelved because it already failed and made the “reset” necessary. These critics remain wedded to the notion of Russia as a neo-imperial power and a threat to regional stability, which is profound misunderstanding of post-Soviet Russia. Thomas Barnett comments on Dmitri Trenin’s new Post-Imperium: A Eurasian Story*, and explains that the reality is quite different:
Meanwhile, America moved in militarily from the south as part of its global war on terror, and China progressively encroached — in an economic sense — on Russia’s “near abroad” in Central Asia. To Moscow’s credit, Trenin notes, it has not moved toward any remilitarization of its relationship with the outside world. If anything, the military reform movement begun in 2008 signals Moscow’s near-complete abandonment of the field of great-power warfare, save for a nuclear deterrent that it nonetheless continues to reduce in agreement with the United States, the one power it truly fears.
One reason why the “reset” has been possible is that Russian ambitions are fairly modest. Barnett writes:
Instead, for the first time in modern history, we have a Russia that just wants to be Russia, and not an imperial project.
Most of the disagreements between the U.S. and Russia today concern how much U.S. and other influence Russia can accept along its borders. The “reset” is an indirect acknowledgment that the U.S. had pushed too hard to acquire influence in post-Soviet space. Washington seems to have recognized for now that this push for influence and the reaction to it were ultimately harmful to U.S. interests and the interests of Russia and its neighbors....
By Tai Adelaja, Russia Profile
Whatever their revolutionary potentials, it would have been inconceivable a few years ago to expect social networks like Twitter or Facebook to galvanize dithering post-Soviet leaders into a concerted action. Yet, as heads of member-states of the Kremlin-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) gathered in Astana on Friday, it was precisely the perceived threat from such social networks that brought a sense of unity to the diversity at the summit.
Russia had long sought – sometimes using sticks and carrots – to bring former Soviet Union satellite states into its fold, but the efforts had largely failed as diverging national interests prevented many from moving too close to Moscow. But with Arab Spring protests spreading like wildfire in the summertime, some long-serving post-Soviet leaders are having second thoughts.
Discussions at Friday’s informal summit in the capital of Kazakhstan have focused squarely on the ongoing upheavals in the Middle East, and on how to prevent the Arab Spring protests from spilling over into the territories of the former Soviet states, the Kommersant business daily reported. But the leaders of the CSTO, a military-political alliance of seven countries including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, needed little persuasion to appreciate “the destructive role” that social networks had played in such protests. After a three-hour meeting behind closed doors, the leaders decided to create a unified preventive strategy for cyberspace, which could mean restricting the use of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, widely seen as the bane of authoritarian Arab regimes, the newspaper said.
In a keynote speech, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev reminded his guests of the need to put up an impregnable wall against the spread of color revolutions on the territories of the former Soviet Union. Echoing similar calls made at the tenth summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June, Nazarbayev also called for a curtailment of freedom in cyberspace. Unregulated information space, he said, poses “threats to regional security and stability in the CSTO member states, especially in light of the latest developments in the world.” The national security threat in cyberspace happens to be familiar territory for the Kazakh president. Conscious of the role that the Internet played in mobilizing protesters in Iran and Moldova in 2009, president Nazarbayev signed the “Law on the Internet,” which classifies all Web sites, blogs and forums in Kazakhstan as mass media and imposes strict regulations on them, including restrictions in reporting on elections, mass protests and strikes.
But as the Middle East continues to be wracked by a wave of protests that toppled long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, experts say some of the leaders gathered in Astana still have much to worry about. President Nazarbayev has been leading his nation for the past 20 years, while both Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and President Alexander Lukashenko have each ruled their countries for 17 years, sometimes with doubtful democratic credentials. President Lukashenko, the current chairman of the Moscow-led alliance, told journalists on Friday that the leaders have been discussing how the CSTO could help them avoid the fate of their colleagues from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. “We agreed to work together to develop measures to counter possible threats, especially in cyberspace,” Lukashenko said.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, diverging political and economic interests have thwarted Moscow’s endeavors to transform the largely symbolic political organization into a credible security organization. However, the tumultuous events in the Arab world appeared to have changed all that. “In the past, some countries perceived membership in the organization almost as a burden, but the events in Africa have had a sobering effect, alerting them to the need for a concerted effort to resist such destructive tendencies,” a source told Kommersant on Friday. Lukashenko conceded as much, saying “recent events in the world, including the Arab arc and North Africa, beg for new areas of work.”
The leaders also took an unprecedented step on Friday to turn the CSTO, a largely symbolic political organization, into a more cohesive militarized security alliance with powers to intervene in internal conflicts in member-states. President Lukashenko, who in the past vehemently opposed the creation of the organization’s Collective Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), said member-states are now determined to complete the process of recruiting and equipping CSTO’s rapid reaction forces “in view of the difficult situation in the world.” The RRF, he said, would deal with issues like border conflicts, but could also be used to repulse military aggression and combat international terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and other emergencies. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the CSTO rapid reaction force, which now numbers about 20,000 troops, “has become a regional force that can neutralize potential threats.”
Analysts said, however, that the measure could run into bumps, as it entails making amendments to the CSTO charter so that the alliance’s forces can intervene on the territories of member-states. “It is a double-edged sword and many countries in Central Asia and Belarus are unlikely to want to give Russia an opportunity to interfere in their internal affairs,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor in chief of Russia in Global Affairs. “Allowing the RRF to intervene in internal conflicts could also transform it into the likes of Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council, which is now largely engaged in quenching revolutionary fires across the Arab world.”
[I usually shy away from the following news source, as it always seems to me to be off the deep-end type of reporting, but then, that could be explained if the author has real intelligence sources. I posted it because of the fantastic notion of the Saudis creating their own "Rapid Reaction Force." It doesn't seem likely that the Central Asian states would approve an "Islamic" quick reaction force, when they have all agreed to commit resources to a CTSO rapid reaction force. In addition, it seems implausible that any of these governments would embrace any Saudi led military force, when Wahhabi-backed militancy is one of their primary worries. If these impediments to such a force could be overcome with enough cash, then it might be a logical progression for Saudi military thinking. The ongoing militarization of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), sending troops into Bahrain, hiring Pakistani military retirees as enforcers, could lead to a rapid reaction force, but it is doubtful that they would have the reach to operate in Central Asia. It is ridiculous to think that the US and NATO would allow the Saudis to compete with their own quick reaction forces, which are definitely deploying throughout Central Asia, right now.
Then again, it might prove useful to have a Saudi network in "the Stans," to take the heat for Western actions that escape the blanket of censorship that is sure to be in place.]
Saudi Arabia is developing a Sunni rapid-reaction military of soldiers from Central and South Asian Muslim nations to confront the expansion of Iranian influence and Tehran’s nuclear threat in the Arab world, Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletinreports.
The effort, which has been under way for months, according to informed sources, will include participants from Pakistan, Indonesia and the Gulf Arab countries. Training will be held in facilities the Saudis will finance in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
According to sources, Pakistan and Jordan will provide the instructors for the new mobile force. The Saudis are looking to China to help supply weapons. In exchange, some sources say that Riyadh will offer Beijing naval facilities in the Saudi kingdom to access the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.
Such a development would be a big boost to China’s plans to expand its forces and give it bases from which to combat pirates attacking Chinese and other ships in the Arabian Sea.
The sources say that Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, who heads the Saudi National Security Council, quietly has been visiting China, Pakistan and the Asian Muslim nations to finalize plans to implement the mobile force.
The trained forces will remain in their respective countries, subject to call in the event of a crisis. Sources say that the initial force will consist of some 5,000 soldiers.
The intention, they say, is to have a force totaling up to 15,000 battle-ready troops. The rapid reaction force is expected to be ready by 2014.
The troops from their various locations will be on call at all times and will be transferred on short notice to countries in the protective umbrella. They will be airlifted by standby aircraft located in the Central Asian countries.
Saudi Arabia is part of the Gulf Cooperation Countries, or GCC, which also includes Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The Saudis recently reinvigorated the GCC’s military council, called the Peninsula Shield Force, in response to what Riyadh and the other GCC members perceive as a growing military threat from Shia Iran.
Analysts agree that Tehran’s military is greater than the combined military of all of the GCC countries. In addition, they are convinced that Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
Sources say that Riyadh is adamant about halting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, even if it means an all-out Saudi-Iranian war....