USA and NATO tighten Anaconda loop around Russia...
The U.S. and Romania signed an agreement on deployment of the elements of a U.S. missile defense system. Earlier it was reported that some elements of EUROPRO system will appear in Turkey. Everything indicates that the U.S. military machine and NATO are inexorably approaching the Russian borders. The US-Romanian agreement was signed on September 13 during a visit to Washington of Romanian President Traian Basescu. The document was signed by the foreign ministers of two countries – Hillary Clinton and Theodore Baconschi. Later Barack Obama met with the participants of the talks, although initially he was not planning to meet with Basescu.
According to the document, by 2015 elements of a U.S. ground-based missile defense system will appear at the former Romanian Air Force Base in Deveselu. They will include radar (SAR) complex Aegis, an operational control center, and mobile missile batteries with interceptor missiles SM-3 Standart-3. Approximately 200 U.S. military will reside at the base, but if necessary, this number will be increased to 500.
Nothing was said with regard to the fact who the missile base will be directed against. Earlier, U.S. officials and Basescu have repeatedly reiterated that the missile defense is not directed against Russia. However, recently there was another event that made the Russian side doubt that statement.
Some time ago the United States and Turkey announced that the Turkish territory would host an early warning radar system EUROPRO. Spokesman of the Turkish Foreign Ministry Selcuk Unal said that the decision to implement a project system of protection against missile attack of the U.S. and NATO was adopted at the Lisbon summit in 2010. Turkey has actively contributed to these original plans and made a significant contribution to the work. He added that there have been negotiations on the extent of Turkey’s participation in this system, which have finally entered into the final stage.According to the Turkish diplomat, the radar will be located in the southeastern part of the country. This will allow “scanning” the area with a radius of several thousand kilometers. Turkey insists that the new object is not directed against anyone, especially against Russia. This will only allow the country to contribute to the development of a new security system of NATO.
According to the American plans, Turkey will first host a mobile radar detection system AN/TPY-2. By 2015 there will be a new sea-and land-based modification of the SM-3. Subsequently, the system will be improved further so that it successfully reflects the threat against the United States and Europe from missiles of medium and long range.
The appearance of the two similar objects in the immediate proximity of Russian borders could not but worry the leadership of the country. In his statement the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed the need to sign a special agreement clearly stipulating that the elements of a U.S. missile defense are not directed against Russia. “The developments only increase the urgency of the need to obtain solid, legally binding assurances from the U.S. and NATO that missile defense facilities being deployed in Europe are not directed against Russia’s strategic nuclear forces,” commented MFA.
“The agreement with Romania to deploy a ground-based version of SM-3 missile system and Aegis at the former air base Deveselu, as well as the recent announcement of the impending deployment of the U.S. forward based anti-missile radar AN/TPY-2 in Turkey, suggests that the implementation of U.S. and Europe’s missile plans is quick and smooth. This is happening amid a lack of progress in the NATO-Russian and Russian-American dialogue on the subject of missile defense,” the Ministry commented.
“Scheduled for deployment in Romania by 2015, regardless of the evolution of the real missile challenges, missile defense base is another link in the strategic infrastructure of the global missile defense system developed by the U.S. NATO-Russia Council needs to develop effective and targeted decisions about the purpose and architecture of the missile defense in the region”, stressed the Russian Foreign Ministry. It may be added that the objects in Romania and Turkey are not the only ones of this kind. The United States and Poland agreed to deploy interceptor missiles Patriot at a Polish base in the town of Morong. The distance from this object to Kaliningrad is no more than 100 kilometers. As in the case of Romania, the Polish authorities also have repeatedly stated that Russian missile defense is not threatened. Initially it was planned to place these missiles near Warsaw, but they were eventually “pushed” to the Russian border. Finally, further north there is American radar in Norway, in the town of Varde, located near the Russian border.
Although officially its function is to monitor space debris, the Russian military and diplomats suspect that it was placed in violation of the ABM Treaty of 1972. Russia conducts regular talks on the operation of this facility with both the U.S. and Norway.
What does the emergence of a chain of objects of a U.S. missile defense system at the Russian borders mean? Military expert and senior vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues Konstantin Sivkov spoke on this subject in an interview with Pravda.ru: ”The U.S. and NATO continue the policy of encirclement of Russia with their bases in the framework of the project “Loop of Anaconda.” Our country is still perceived by the Americans as the main strategic adversary, and they do not even make any secret of it. Their task is to neutralize our nuclear weapons and push us out of the major areas of the world’s oceans. In this case – even from the Black Sea. Turkey, of course, has its own views on the missile defense system, but Romania is a pawn in the hands of the U.S., and its elite exist only because of the American support. The same can be said about Poland. As a result, there is a chain of U.S. missile defense sites along the Russian border, stretching from Turkey through Romania and Poland to Norway.”
Obama cozies up to Central Asian dictator....
The exigencies of the Afghan war lead the administration to ask for military aid to Uzbekistan...
It’s generating few headlines, but Operation Enduring Freedom — otherwise known as the war in Afghanistan — could soon result in less freedom for the people of Uzbekistan, if the Obama administration gets its way.
The ruling dictatorship of Uzbekistan, which borders Afghanistan to the north, has been a kind of beneficiary of the war and the American need to transport supplies and troops in and out of Afghanistan. (See a map of the supply routes here.)
Prompted by the the current crisis in U.S.-Pakistani relations, the Obama administration has reportedly shifted supply lines to rely even more on the Central Asian corridor. And in an effort to improve relations with Uzbekistan, it is now asking Congress to OK military aid to that country, over the furious objections of human rights groups. Several groups signed a strongly worded letter to senators this week, asking that they turn down the administration’s requests for aid.
The administration, for its part, has not been commenting on the matter on the record.
To learn more, I spoke to Steve Swerdlow, Uzbekistan researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Who is Islam Karimov, and what sort of regime are we dealing with here?
The Uzbek government is one of the most repressive in the world. It’s commonly rated as such on Freedom House’s annual list. It’s known for the systematic use of torture throughout its criminal justice system. I was there as the HRW representative last year for several months, and we documented widespread torture both in pretrial detention and in prisons. It is used against political opponents, dissidents and even so-called common criminals. Several dozen activists, human rights defenders, journalists and opposition figures are languishing in prisons for their beliefs or activism. There is no free press. The government last year denied my visa and expelled Human Rights Watch from the country for our work in documenting human rights abuses. It has also kicked out international media outlets in recent years following the killing of protesters by government forces in 2005.
And how long has Karimov been in control?
He has ruled with an iron fist for over 22 years. He is the former secretary of the Communist Party in Uzbekistan before it was an independent country. And he was quickly elected president when it became a country in 1991. Since that time, he has been the singular figure in charge.
What is the issue facing Congress and the Obama administration right now?
Congress is reviewing whether or not to grant the president the power to waive existing restrictions on giving assistance to Uzbekistan — and that includes military aid to the government. Since 2004, there have restrictions on what sorts of military equipment can be sold to the Uzbek government. The Obama administration, including the Pentagon, is strongly lobbying Congress at the moment to drop these restrictions. That would allow Uzbekistan to buy supposedly nonlethal or defensive military equipment such as shields, armor, et cetera.
And the reason that they’re lobbying for this is to gain greater access to Uzbekistan as a transshipment point for the war in Afghanistan?
Our understanding from congressional sources is that in exchange for granting U.S. and NATO sources authorization to transit supplies and maybe even troops out of Afghanistan northward through Uzbek territory, the Uzbek government wants these human rights restrictions dropped. That’s both because the Uzbek government is interested in buying military equipment and it wants to have the American stamp of approval that it is no longer being classified as a serial human rights violator.
Throughout the Afghan war period, hasn’t here been a relationship between the U.S. and Uzbekistan at least on and off?
It’s gone through hot and cold periods. The first was 2001 to 2005, when the U.S. government was closely cooperating with the Karimov government, which allowed the U.S. to use an air base known as K2. In 2004, in light of the deteriorating situation around the freedom of expression, the persecution of human rights defenders and the crackdown on civil society in general and religious believers, Congress enacted these restrictions. In 2005, there was a major uprising in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan. The Uzbek government forces surrounded a square where mostly peaceful protesters had gathered. There had been an armed element in the uprising for part of the day, but many more peaceful civilians joined in. Uzbek forces surrounded the crowd and opened fire, killing hundreds of civilians. After that, the relationship between the U.S. government and Uzbekistan changed rapidly. The U.S. was instrumental in helping to resettle some of the refugees that had fled the violence, and in response the Uzbek government blocked access to the air base.
So what has happened under President Obama?
As the war in Afghanistan grew more complicated and the need to supply forces there became greater, the U.S. started making overtures to the Uzbek government. That started in 2007 and increased in 2008 through 2010 as the U.S. developed the so-called Northern Distribution Network, which is a transit corridor that extends all the way from the Baltic states, down through Russia and Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan. It is used to supply troops in Afghanistan. The Uzbek government has been able to profit handsomely from this arrangement; it receives compensation for allowing transit through Uzbek territory, and Uzbek firms that are closely linked to the Karimov family have produced some goods and performed services for U.S. and NATO forces.
When it comes to the current lobbying by the administration, what’s going to happen next?
Our understanding is that things are moving very rapidly, especially since the fallout between Pakistan and the U.S. after the killing of Osama bin Laden. It seems like the fragility of that relationship created a sense of urgency and maybe an opening for the Obama administration and the Pentagon to push now for a waiver on human rights restrictions. Our understanding is that various senators and members of Congress are being approached and briefed by Pentagon officials and maybe White House officials on the need to give this free pass to Uzbekistan, and that they’re looking to seal it up this month.
At Human Rights Watch, we’re taking the position not that U.S. troops shouldn’t be supplied through the Northern Distribution Network, but that the U.S. shouldn’t relinquish its tremendous leverage for a short-term goal. The larger lesson is that doing business with extremely abusive dictators is not a smart policy from the perspective of human rights or security. Dropping all restrictions on aid, including military aid, without insisting on concrete improvements in Uzbekistan’s human rights record is a huge windfall for an extremely repressive government and may ultimately create long-term instability in Uzbekistan and Central Asia. It also sends the detrimental message to ordinary Uzbeks that despite its pronouncements on the Arab Spring and democratic change, the Obama administration is more interested in narrow security interests in Afghanistan than in supporting the fundamental human rights of the Uzbek population....