Friday, March 14, 2008

NATO and Putin

Vladimir Putin will be attending the next NATO conference in April, and seems to be bringing some goodies to the table. M K Bhadrakumar takes a look at that and other aspects of NATO/Russia relations.

The main points:
  1. Germany and France both oppose efforts by the US and Britain to bring the Ukraine and Georgia into NATO in the near future.
  2. Russia is offering use of its territory to bring supplies into Afghanistan, but only if it becomes a partner in the venture, with some say-so on goals and means.
  3. That this is even considered means that Pakistan is looking shakier as the vital link in the Afghan war.
  4. As the US economy continues to tank and the price of oil and gas continues to rise, and while US foreign policy has failed to do anything but provide security and encouragement for Israel's expansionist policies, Europe is looking elsewhere for partners. Russia has the money to be an expanding market for European goods, and they're going to need markets since the US economy is heading south, probably for the long term.
  5. Finally, the Central Asian energy producers have been corralled by Russia:
Besides, post-Soviet Russia's influence in Central Asia has peaked even as the first real possibility of the emergence of a "gas OPEC" involving Russia and the Central Asian countries has appeared. This may well outshine all other foreign policy legacies of Russia in the Putin era. Russia has been for long seeking an association of former Soviet gas producers and exporters on the pattern of the oil cartel. Russia and the Central Asian suppliers - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - have now agreed that starting in 2009, they will switch to the European price formula.

The move, which bears all the hallmarks of the Kremlin, elevates energy cooperation between Russia and the Central Asian producers to an altogether higher level of coordination and common strategy in foreign markets. The implications are far-reaching for European countries and the US. Russia has checkmated US-sponsored trans-Caspian energy pipeline projects.
Meanwhile, Condi and Gates are going to be talking to their Russian counterparts in Moscow on Monday and Tuesday, just as Cheney visits the Middle East. It should be interesting.


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