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Central Asia news

The forthcoming NATO summit in Riga will confirm the West's inability to cope with the Taliban

24.11.2006 16:33 msk

Gennadi Savchenko (Gazeta)

Analytics Afghanistan

NATO summit will take place in Riga, Latvia, on November 28-29. Sergei Rogov (Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences), Alexander Khramchikhin (the head of the Department of Analysis of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis), and Dmitry Danilov (the head of the European Security Department of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences) met with journalists yesterday. The political scientists spoke of what they thought would transpire at the Riga summit and its consequences for Russia.

The political scientists are convinced, for example, that the United States will demand from its allies in Riga to begin taking a real and not symbolic part in the hostilities in Afghanistan. If the Europeans refuse, it is the Russians that may eventually find themselves fighting in this country.

Russia was not invited to Riga precisely because of the plans to discuss matters of such importance and because the discussion does not promise to be easy. Russia got an invitation to the NATO summit in Prague in 2002. Seven East European countries were joining the Alliance at the moment and Russia was invited to observe its triumph. According to Khramchikhin, the Riga summit will be wholly different. It will show that the international community is rushing headlong into chaos, that a monopolar world is evolving into multipolar, and that "from the military point of view, NATO is a paper tiger now." All of that because "the United States is all but defeated in Iraq" and because practically all of its contingent will be pulled out by 2008.

What effect will it have on Afghanistan where Islamic fundamentalists from the Taliban become stronger with each passing day? Khramchikhin does not think that American society will approve of a new all-out war so soon after the licking the US Army took in Iraq. NATO countries whose combined ground forces exceed 1.5 million men dispatched but 20,000 servicemen to Afghanistan.

"It is the Anglo-Saxons who are fighting nowadays," Khramchikhin said. "The Americans, British, and Canadians, with the Dutchmen helping them a bit." It is NATO neophytes who could provide manpower for the war in Afghanistan now because their authorities are more obedient to the United States than the so called Old Europe is.

Eastward expansion of the Alliance proclaimed four years ago is suspended and the Riga summit is expected to confirm it. Georgia and Ukraine face very many problems at home, and that precludes their membership in NATO in the foreseeable future. Danilov even assumes that when Ukrainian Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich was saying in September that his country was not ready for NATO yet, he was doing so on advice from the Brussels.

"The organization has not even digested East European neophytes yet. It's too busy to be thinking about Georgia and Saakashvili," Rogov said. "It has its hands full with Poland and its twins [President and Prime Minister Lech and Jaroslaw Kachinskis - Gazeta]."

The situation being what it is, Russia should formulate its interests. "Consequences of the defeat of the Americans in the Middle East and of their potential defeat in Afghanistan will create a wholly new situation for our security," Rogov said. All of that may even necessitate the return of a Russian contingent to Afghanistan again "unless we want to be fighting in Central Asia soon afterwards."

This is not the first time when experts and political scientists predict Russian soldiers' return to Afghanistan, and this latest forecast may therefore be taken with a certain grain of salt. "This unique situation when somebody else is defending our interests (it was usually the other way round in our history) is going to change soon," Khramchikhin said. He was correct.

Gazeta, November 24, 2006, p. 3

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru