How to withdraw from Afghanistan? Russia considers an agreement with both US and NATO

Orderly retreat would be essential for fending off the spread of terrorism and illegal drugs out of Afghanistan – Published on Current Concerns, by AP, April 2, 2012.

A new deal allowing the United States and its Nato allies to use a Russian air base for transit of troops and military cargo to Afghanistan would help ensure Russia’s own security, Russia’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
Sergey Lavrov said a plan to permit the US and other Nato nations to use the base in the city of Ulyanovsk on the Volga. 

River will soon be considered by the Russian Cabinet. If approved, the deal could help repair Russian ties with the United States, which have become increasingly strained over Washington’s missile defense plans in Europe and the Syrian crisis.

Moscow has provided the US and other Nato member states with air corridors and railway routes for carrying supplies to and from Afghanistan. The new agreement would for the first time allow alliance members to set up a logistics facility for troops and cargo on Russian territory.

Lavrov strongly defended such a deal, saying the success of Nato’s mission is essential for fending off the spread of terrorism and illegal drugs from Afghanistan into ex-Soviet Central Asian nations and Russia.

It’s in our interests that the coalition achieves a success before withdrawing and makes sure that the Afghans are capable of defending their country and ensuring an acceptable level of security,” Lavrov told the lower house of Russia’s legislature. Some lawmakers argued that the US military’s use of the Ulyanovsk facility could threaten Russia by allowing foreign troops on its soil.

“We want those who are fending off threats directed at Russia to efficiently fulfill their tasks,” Lavrov said. “We are helping the coalition to proceed from our own interests.”

In Belgium, Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said boosting cooperation on the Afghan transit would benefit both the alliance and Russia … //

… “By providing a transit hub, Russia will get the chance to make its demands,” Nikonov said. “It will be a very good foreign policy argument.”

US-Russian ties have been strained recently over Moscow’s support of the Syrian regime and U.S. missile defense plans in Europe.

Washington said the missile shield is intended to fend off the Iranian missile threat, but the Kremlin has seen it as a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent and urged Washington to provide security guarantees.

“If the US doesn’t want to change anything in its plans, it should provide reliable guarantees that their missile defense sites around Europe aren’t directed against our strategic nuclear forces,” Lavrov said Wednesday. “If our partners continue to ignore our legitimate interests, Russia will have to take retaliatory security measures.”  (full text).

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