With Pakistan supply route still shut, Russia offers NATO life line

Published: March 15, 2012
The proposal to use the base for a "combined" air, road and rail traffic to Afghanistan came originally from NATO in May 2011. PHOTO: AFP

The proposal to use the base for a "combined" air, road and rail traffic to Afghanistan came originally from NATO in May 2011. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW: Russia’s foreign minister on Wednesday endorsed a proposal to allow NATO use of a southern Russian air base as a hub for transport of supplies to Afghanistan and suggested it was premature to withdraw troops from the war-torn country.

Sergei Lavrov said the proposal to lease NATO an air base in the Volga River city of Ulyanovsk for non-lethal NATO supply transits to Afghanistan via Central Asia must get formal government approval but is in Russia’s “national interest.”

It would be the first deal allowing US-led coalition forces a logistical base on Russian territory rather than simply a corridor for Afghan supply transports.

The proposal to use the base for a “combined” air, road and rail traffic to Afghanistan came originally from NATO in May 2011. It requires the Russian cabinet’s go-ahead but no date for a meeting on the issue has been set.

Lavrov called the deal “a means to assist those who are eradicating the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

“We are helping the coalition… primarily out of our own national interest,” Lavrov told lawmakers in a speech to Russia’s lower house of parliament.

He also voiced concern that a premature troop withdrawal would lead to a security vacuum near Russia’s border in Afghanistan, where Moscow fought a disastrous 1979-89 war which still haunts Russian and killed 15,000 Soviet troops.

“We are not happy with the artificial deadlines announced as a reference point for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan,” he said. “First, it is necessary to achieve a basic level of order maintained by Afghan security forces.”

Russia has allowed Afghan-bound NATO transports through its territory since 2009 as an alternative supply route to convoys through Pakistan that have been pry to militant attacks.

But it has stopped short of allowing weapons transports.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Ulyanovsk would serve as a base for NATO to transfer cargos of “mineral water, napkins and other military cargoes” onto planes.

“The Russian budget will get money from it,” he said in support of the plan, posting on his Twitter feed on Tuesday.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Mar 15, 2012 - 1:09AM

    Cant understand this so messed up international politics


  • Senman
    Mar 15, 2012 - 1:23AM

    Oh no Pakistan’s potential friend is giving its enemy access!!!! Pakistan will find the going tough without the alms USA offers.


  • Usman
    Mar 15, 2012 - 2:09AM

    ET, what exactly is your agenda? You want us to feel bad that we’ve lost out on a business opportunity?


  • shaheen1shaheen2
    Mar 15, 2012 - 2:28AM

    these russians have proven to be untrustworthy.entire ummah should unite and help brave chechens to gain independence from russia.we have already defeated them once.


  • Nasir
    Mar 15, 2012 - 2:44AM

    The whole world has an intrest in seeing a stable Afghan nation free from terrorism that will not export terror. However our enlightened Pakistani leaders , military and especially our mullahs all have a vested interest in seeing an unstable neighbour no matter how detrimental it is to Pakistan.
    The reason for this is that we will no longer be able to use our begging bowl if Afghanistan becomes normal and all our mullahs will be out of business.
    Other countries in the civilised world deal with Pakistan because they have to not because they want to and the Pakistani masses are brainwashed into thinking that Afghani’s love us, I dare anyone to go to a Kabul market and shout out he is a Pakistani – Lets see how long he is still standing


  • Rex Minor
    Mar 15, 2012 - 3:41AM

    Russia does not have a border with Afghanistan! Russia is unlikely to allow the movemnt of opium or weapons across their territory. In any event NATO and USA are pulling out of Afghanistan sooner than they planned. 2012 is not a good year for the USA current administration

    Rex Minor.


  • Mar 15, 2012 - 4:42AM

    Russia and other nations along the Northern route have many significant restrictions on what NATO can or can not use it for supplying troops in Afghanistan. Airlink through Pakistan airspace and land supplies concealed as Afghan Transit Trade have been vital to keep the US troops sufficiently supplied since November of last year.

    But the US & NATO need the route opened soon to enable planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.



  • Cautious
    Mar 15, 2012 - 5:18AM

    Both Russia and China are closer to America than Pakistan — both rely on American trade and both have concerns about Muslim extremist — pretty clear to most outside of Pakistan. What I can’t figure out is why Pakistan goes to such extraordinary lengths to create an enemy of the USA — extortionist don’t survive long once the leverage they use goes away and whatever leverage Pakistan has will be gone in 2014 maybe sooner?


  • Raj - USA
    Mar 15, 2012 - 6:03AM

    One day soon, we may hear Iran offering its land route for NATO supplies.


  • Fatah
    Mar 15, 2012 - 6:20AM

    Pakistan has no friends – which is GREAT.

    Pakistan can and will stand by itself because it is capable of doing so.

    No America and No Russia and No India.


  • Abdul Majeed
    Mar 15, 2012 - 9:33AM

    Backdoor diplomacy by American’s front line representative and brother ! Saudi Arabia – the supply route may soon be opened.


  • WoW
    Mar 15, 2012 - 11:23AM

    Can you please make the same comment on China. Their ICBC bank has just pulledd out of IP pipeline. Any ummah support/help for the Muslims in Xinjian?


  • John B
    Mar 15, 2012 - 11:32AM

    When cold war was at its peak, USSR was selling oil to US and US was buying it from USSR. This is a piece of cake, especially for Sec. Clinton.

    PAK strategy on NATO supply line is childish. The line will be open in full swing by march, PAK national logistics will get its money for transport and fuel, and all are happy. PAK army social programs must be feeling the pinch.

    If PAK was brilliant she could have made millions in small business in supplying to NATO, and about million people could have been employed.


  • G. Din
    Mar 15, 2012 - 4:13PM

    This speaks of Russian statesmanship. Russia is not being as petty or vengeful as when the roles were reversed.


  • AK
    Mar 15, 2012 - 5:24PM

    If Pakistan keeps playing tough, US will use Baloochistan card.


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