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Russia was a participant or observer in the following events:
At a congress in Berlin, the Western powers divide the Balkans in the aftermath of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by Russia that January. Under the Treaty of San Stefano, signed that March, Bulgaria received territory as far west as central Albania and Serbia took the northern part of Kosova. Western countries refuse to accept this settlement, and instead return Kosova and Macedonia to the Ottomans, Serbia gets only the area north of Nis, and Bulgaria’s territory also shrinks. Montenegro gets northern parts of the future Albania, including Peja, Ulqin, Pllava, Guci, Hot, Gruda, Tivar, Vermosh, Kelmend, Kraja, and Anamal, which had been part of Kosova under the Ottomans. This division angers Albanian leaders and sows hostility between Albanians and Serbs. According to Albanian scholar and diplomat Paulin Kola, Albanian anger comes from the way the congress exposes its powerlessness and divides the Balkans without concern for the ethnicity of its inhabitants. The settlement also sparks ethnic cleansing. According to Kola, up to 50,000 Albanians are expelled from Kosova, as government policy. Serbs are also expelled, but this is localized. Kola will come to believe fewer were expelled than the Serbian academic figure of 150,000, which is about the total Serb population of Kosova at this time. [Kola, 2003, pp. 8-9]
At a conference of their ambassadors, the six Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom) decide to create an independent and neutral Albanian kingdom, with no ties to the Ottomans. Under a July 29 agreement, the Great Powers nominate the prince of Albania, run the government and budget of Albania for a renewable term of 10 years, and create an Albanian gendarmerie, under Swedish Army officers. The conference also decides Albania’s borders. In addition to demanding a commercial port on the Adriatic Sea, which the conference quickly accepts, Serbia wants its border to extend from Lake Ohri, along the Black Drin River to the White Drin River, which excludes Kosova and parts of Macedonia with an Albanian population. Montenegro wants its border to be on the Mat River, or at least the Drin River, giving it parts of northern Albania. Greece wants its border to begin at the city of Vlora and include Gjirokastra and Korca in southern Albania. The Albanian government in Vlora wants Albania to unite all Albanian populated areas, including Kosova, parts of Macedonia and Montenegro, and the Greek region of Cameria. Austria and Italy support the Albanian position, but lose to Russia, which supports Serbia. Instead of giving Shkodra to Montenegro, the conference leaves it in Albania, Montenegro keeps what it was given by the Berlin Congress in the summer of 1878, and Kosova is given to Serbia. Sir Edward Grey makes a five-part proposal to settle the border with Greece. A commission is empowered to go to the area and settle the border, and recommends that Korca and Sazan, an island near Vlora, be given to Albania. The occupation forces, especially the Greeks, hamper the commission. The Florence Protocol in December 1913 gives Cameria, which Greece calls Northern Epirus, to Greece. At the other end of Albania, a commission attempts to implement an agreement from March 22, and modified April 14. Serbia continues to occupy northern Albania, leading to an Albanian backlash there in September and October. Serbia says there is a need for its occupation forces in the region, but Austria-Hungary threatens military force if Serb forces do not leave within eight days. The commission leaves the issue there because of winter and then the start of World War I the next summer. [Kola, 2003, pp. 13-16]
Entity Tags: United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, Albania, Edward Grey, France, Germany, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, Macedonia, Italy, Greece
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, and the Ottomans sign a peace treaty to end the 1912 Balkan war, allowing the six major powers of Europe to decide Albania’s status. Proposals were discussed months earlier. In December 1912 a conference of ambassadors headed by UK Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey met in London. They decided to create an autonomous Albania still connected to the Ottomans, but then Macedonia was captured, cutting Albania off from the Ottoman Empire. [Kola, 2003, pp. 13]
Entity Tags: France, Albania, Edward Grey, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, United Kingdom, Italy, Serbia, Ottoman Empire, Montenegro, Russia
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
A secret treaty is signed in London between the Entente—comprising Britain, France, and Russia—and Italy, giving Italy the port of Vlora, the nearby island of Sazan (Saseno), and whatever area Italy deems necessary to hold them. If Italy captures Trentin, Istria, Trieste, Dalmatia, and some islands in the Adriatic, France, Russia, and Britain’s plan to split Albania between Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia will go ahead. The border between Greece and Serbia would be west of Lake Ohri. Part of Albania would remain, but its foreign policy would be under Italy’s control. The four signatories are the same ambassadors who signed the treaty that created the Albanian state in 1913. The treaty will be made public by the Bolsheviks in 1917. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 89; Kola, 2003, pp. 17]
The Soviet Union collapses in 1991, creating several new nations in Central Asia. Major US oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Texaco, Unocal, BP Amoco, Shell, and Enron, directly invest billions in these Central Asian nations, bribing heads of state to secure equity rights in the huge oil reserves in these regions. The oil companies commit to $35 billion in future direct investments in Kazakhstan. It is believed at the time that these oil fields will have an estimated $6 trillion potential value. US companies own approximately 75 percent of the rights. These companies, however, face the problem of having to pay exorbitant prices to Russia for use of the Russian pipelines to get the oil out. [New Yorker, 7/9/2001; Asia Times, 1/26/2002]
Robin Raphel. [Source: Mark Wilson / Agence France-Presse]Robin Raphel, Deputy Secretary of State for South Asia, speaks to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister about Afghanistan. She says that the US government “now hopes that peace in the region will facilitate US business interests,” such as the proposed Unocal gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. [Coll, 2004, pp. 330]
Ahmed Rashid. [Source: Jane Scherr/ University of California, Berkeley]Ahmed Rashid, correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and The Daily Telegraph, conducts extensive investigative research in Afghanistan after the Taliban conquest of Kabul. As he will later write in his 2000 book, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, he sees a “massive regional polarization between the USA, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Taliban on one side and Iran, Russia, the Central Asian states and the anti-Taliban alliance on the other. While some focused on whether there was a revival of the old CIA-ISI connection from the Afghan jihad era, it became apparent to me that the strategy over pipelines had become the driving force behind Washington’s interest in the Taliban, which in turn was prompting a counter-reaction from Russia and Iran. But exploring this was like entering a labyrinth, where nobody spoke the truth or divulged their real motives or interests. It was the job of a detective rather than a journalist because there were few clues. Even gaining access to the real players in the game was difficult, because policy was not being driven by politicians and diplomats, but by the secretive oil companies and intelligence services of the regional states.” [Rashid, 2001, pp. 163]
Victor Bout. [Source: New York Times]Russian arms merchant Victor Bout, who has been selling weapons to Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance since 1992, switches sides, and begins selling weapons to the Taliban and al-Qaeda instead. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/2002; Guardian, 4/17/2002; Los Angeles Times, 5/19/2002] The deal comes immediately after the Taliban captures Kabul in late October 1996 and gains the upper hand in Afghanistan’s civil war. In one trade in 1996, Bout’s company delivers at least 40 tons of Russian weapons to the Taliban, earning about $50 million. [Guardian, 2/16/2002] Two intelligence agencies later confirm that Bout trades with the Taliban “on behalf of the Pakistan government.” In late 2000, several Ukrainians sell 150 to 200 T-55 and T-62 tanks to the Taliban in a deal conducted by the ISI, and Bout helps fly the tanks to Afghanistan. [Gazette (Montreal), 2/5/2002] Bout formerly worked for the Russian KGB, and now operates the world’s largest private weapons transport network. Based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bout operates freely there until well after 9/11. The US becomes aware of Bout’s widespread illegal weapons trading in Africa in 1995, and of his ties to the Taliban in 1996, but they fail to take effective action against him for years. [Los Angeles Times, 5/19/2002] US pressure on the UAE in November 2000 to close down Bout’s operations there is ignored. Press reports calling him “the merchant of death” also fail to pressure the UAE. [Financial Times, 6/10/2000; Guardian, 12/23/2000] After President Bush is elected, it appears the US gives up trying to get Bout, until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 2/26/2002; Guardian, 4/17/2002] Bout moves to Russia in 2002. He is seemingly protected from prosecution by the Russian government, which in early 2002 will claim, “There are no grounds for believing that this Russian citizen has committed illegal acts.” [Guardian, 4/17/2002] The Guardian suggests that Bout may have worked with the CIA when he traded with the Northern Alliance, and this fact may be hampering current international efforts to catch him. [Guardian, 4/17/2002]
Gen. Pete Schoomaker. [Source: US Defense Department]A data mining program called Able Danger was set up by US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in late 1998. It had been collecting data mostly on Bosnia and China (see Late December 1998). But at this time, it begins collecting data on al-Qaeda. [Government Security News, 9/2005] At least some of the data is collected on behalf of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Lambert, the J3 at US Special Operations Command. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Judiciary, 9/21/2005] Eleven intelligence employees are directly involved in Able Danger’s work. Six are with SOCOM’s Able Danger unit. Four more, including Dr. Eileen Preisser and Maj. Eric Kleinsmith, are with the US Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA), which joins the effort in December 1999. LIWA had been conducing data mining already on a wide variety of topics, including international drug cartels, corruption in Russia and Serbia, terrorist linkages in the Far East, and the proliferation of sensitive military technology to China (see April 2000). [Norristown Times Herald, 6/19/2005; Government Security News, 8/2005; New York Times, 8/9/2005; St. Petersburg Times, 8/10/2005; Bergen Record, 8/14/2005; Government Security News, 9/2005; US Congress, 9/21/2005; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Judiciary, 9/21/2005] Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, running a military unit called Stratus Ivy in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), will also take part in the effort. According to Shaffer, Stratus Ivy is tasked “to take on ‘out of the box’ ideas, and develop them into real intelligence operations.” So the goal is to use the information gathered by Able Danger to conduct real operations against al-Qaeda targets. [US Congress, 2/15/2006 ] Using computers, the unit collects huge amounts of data in a technique called “data mining.” They get information from such sources as al-Qaeda Internet chat rooms, news accounts, web sites, and financial records. Using sophisticated software, they compare this with government records such as visa applications by foreign tourists, to find any correlations and depict these visually. [Bergen Record, 8/14/2005; Government Security News, 9/2005] The program will be shut down early in 2001 (see January-March 2001).
Entity Tags: Geoffrey Lambert, Anthony Shaffer, Eric Kleinsmith, Russia, Special Operations Command, Hugh Shelton, Al-Qaeda, Curt Weldon, Peter J. Schoomaker, Bosnia, China, Able Danger, Eileen Preisser
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
General Tommy Franks.
[Source: US Army]US General Tommy Franks tours Central Asia in an attempt to build military aid relationships with nations there, but finds no takers. Russia’s power in the region appears to be on the upswing instead. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev writes, “The actions of Islamic extremists in Central Asia give Russia the chance to strengthen its position in the region.” However, shortly after 9/11, Russia and China agree to allow the US to establish temporary US military bases in Central Asia to prosecute the Afghanistan war. The bases become permanent, and the Guardian will write in early 2002, “Both countries increasingly have good reasons to regret their accommodating stand. Having pushed, cajoled, and bribed its way into their Central Asian backyard, the US clearly has no intention of leaving any time soon.”
The Washington Post reports, “The United States has quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden. Until it backed off under local pressure, it went so far as to explore whether a Central Asian country would permit the use of its territory for such a purpose.” Russia and the US are discussing “what kind of government should replace the Taliban. Thus, while claiming to oppose a military solution to the Afghan problem, the United States is now talking about the overthrow of a regime that controls nearly the entire country, in the hope it can be replaced with a hypothetical government that does not exist even on paper.”
[Washington Post, 12/19/2000] It appears that all pre-9/11 plans to invade Afghanistan involve attacking from the north with Russia.
Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley (R) and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (L) speak to reporters in Moscow after taking part in negotiations with Russia regarding an anti-ballistic missile shield on May 11, 2001. [Source: Yuri Kochetkov/ Corbis]While still campaigning to become president, George W. Bush frequently argued the US should build an anti-ballistic missile shield (see October 12, 2000). After Bush is made president, the development of such a shield and getting out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty the US has signed that would prevent such a shield, becomes the top US security priority (see May 26, 1972 and December 13, 2001). Senior officials and cabinet members make it their top agenda item in meetings with European allies, Russia, and China. Five Cabinet-level officials, including Condoleezza Rice, travel to Moscow to persuade Russia to abandon the ABM Treaty. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith is there on September 10 to make the same case. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5/2004]
Ballistic Missiles 'Today's Most Urgent Threat' - In a major speech given on May 1, 2001, Bush calls the possible possession of missiles by rogue states “today’s most urgent threat.” [New York Times, 5/2/2001] In a June 2001 meeting with European heads of state, Bush names missile defense as his top defense priority and terrorism is not mentioned at all (see June 13, 2001). It will later be reported that Rice was scheduled to give a major speech on 9/11, in which, according to the Washington Post, she planned “to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and [made] no mention of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or Islamic extremist groups.” However, the speech will be cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks (see September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/1/2004]
Criticism and Controversy - Bush’s missile shield stance is highly controversial. For instance, in July 2001 a Guardian article is titled, “US Defies Global Fury Over Missile Shield.” [New York Times, 5/2/2001] Domestic critics suggest the missile shield could start a new arms race and cost over $500 billion. [Reuters, 5/3/2001]
Diverting Attention from Terrorism - Some argue that Bush’s missile focus is diverting attention from terrorism. For instance, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) tells Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a June 2001 hearing that the US is spending too much money on missile defense and not “putting enough emphasis on countering the most likely threats to our national security… like terrorist attacks.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5/2004] On September 5, 2001, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd writes: “And why can George W. Bush think of nothing but a missile shield? Our president is caught in the grip of an obsession worthy of literature” and notes that “sophisticated antimissile interceptors can’t stop primitive, wobbly missiles from rogue nations, much less germ warfare from terrorists.” [New York Times, 9/5/2001] On September 10, 2001, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) warns that if the US spends billions on missile defense, “we will have diverted all that money to address the least likely threat, while the real threats come into this country in the hold of ship, or the belly of a plane.” In 2004, a San Francisco Chronicle editorial will suggest that if the Bush administration had focused less on the missile shield and had “devoted more attention, more focus and more resources to the terrorist threat, the events of Sept. 11 might have been prevented.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5/2004]
The Russian Permanent Mission at the United Nations secretly submits “an unprecedentedly detailed report” to the UN Security Council about bin Laden, his whereabouts, details of his al-Qaeda network, Afghan drug running, and Taliban connections to Pakistan and the ISI. The report provides “a listing of all bin Laden’s bases, his government contacts and foreign advisers,” and enough information to potentially locate and kill him. It is said to contain an “astonishing degree of information.” The US fails to use the information in any noticable manner. Alex Standish, the editor of the highly respected Jane’s Intelligence Review, concludes that the attacks of 9/11 were less of an American intelligence failure than the result of “a political decision not to act against bin Laden.” [Jane's Intelligence Review, 10/5/2001; Times of India, 10/8/2001] In May 2002, Jane’s will further comment,“it is becoming clear that this was only the most high profile of a number of attempts by the Russians to alert the US and other members of the Security Council to the extent of the inter-dependence between the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the ISI. According to [our] Russian sources, there was a regular flow of information from Moscow to the US dating back to the last years of the Clinton presidency. It seems apparent, however, that although this intelligence was being received by the CIA and other US agencies, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm within political - as opposed to military - circles for the launch of pre-emptive strikes against either the Taliban or al-Qaeda. However, given the detailed intelligence being provided by the Russians - and the fact that bin Laden was making very clear threats to launch further strikes against US targets - it seems bizarre, to say the least, that no high-level political decision was taken to focus US intelligence efforts on al-Qaeda and its international network…” [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 5/28/2002]
In December 2000, the US and Russia cosponsored a United Nations Security Council resolution requiring member states to “freeze without delay” the funds of those on a list of designated terrorists. The resolution passed, and the UN and European Union (EU) release the list on this day. It contains the names of five alleged al-Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden’s security coordinator, brother-in-law, and financial handler. Yet strangely, the US itself does not freeze the assets of these five leaders, and will only so one month after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). [United Nations, 3/8/2001; Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2001] The Guardian will report after 9/11, “Members of Congress want to know why treasury officials charged with disrupting the finances of terrorists did not follow” the UN and EU. [Guardian, 10/13/2001]
Jane’s Intelligence Review reports that the US is working with India, Iran, and Russia “in a concerted front against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.” India is supplying the Northern Alliance with military equipment, advisers, and helicopter technicians and both India and Russia are using bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for their operation. [Jane's Intelligence Review, 3/15/2001]
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization logo. [Source: Shanghai Cooperation Organization]The Shanghai Five (see 1996) becomes known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and expands to include Uzbekistan. [BBC, 6/11/2001] SCO member-states agree unanimously to take the organization to a “higher level” and expand its mission beyond the original objectives of resolving border disputes and dealing with Islamic separatists to include issues such as regional economic development, commerce, and investment. [Shanghai Cooperation [.org], 6/20/2005] Leaders of the organization’s member-states say they hope the SCO will counterbalance US dominance of world affairs. According to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the organization will foster “world multi-polarization” and contribute to the “establishment of a fair and reasonable international order.” [Associated Press, 6/15/2001] During their meeting in Shanghai, members sign a letter of support for the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (see May 26, 1972), which the United States has said it wants to scrap to make way for a missile defense shield (see December 13, 2001). [BBC, 6/15/2001] SCO members say the defense system will have a “negative impact on world security.” [Associated Press, 6/15/2001] One Russian official at the meeting says the 1972 ABM Treaty is the “cornerstone of global stability and disarmament.” [BBC, 6/15/2001] China and Russia also discuss collaborating on a joint program to develop a radar system capable of tracking US F-117A stealth fighter planes. [CNN, 6/20/2001]
An Indian magazine reports more details of the cooperative efforts of the US, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran against the Taliban regime: “India and Iran will ‘facilitate’ US and Russian plans for ‘limited military action’ against the Taliban if the contemplated tough new economic sanctions don’t bend Afghanistan’s fundamentalist regime.” Earlier in the month, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of the Confederation of Independent States that military action against the Taliban may happen, possibly with Russian involvement using bases and forces from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well. [IndiaReacts, 6/26/2001]
Niaz Naik. [Source: Calcutta Telegraph (left)]Three former American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Deputy Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs), and Lee Coldren (former State Department expert on South Asia) meet with Pakistani and Russian intelligence officers in a Berlin hotel. [Salon, 8/16/2002] This is the third of a series of back-channel conferences called “brainstorming on Afghanistan.” Taliban representatives sat in on previous meetings, but boycotted this one due to worsening tensions. However, the Pakistani ISI relays information from the meeting to the Taliban. [Guardian, 9/22/2001] At the meeting, Coldren passes on a message from Bush officials. He later says, “I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action.” [Guardian, 9/26/2001] Accounts vary, but former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik later says he is told by senior American officials at the meeting that military action to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan is planned to “take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.” The goal is to kill or capture both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, topple the Taliban regime, and install a transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. Uzbekistan and Russia would also participate. Naik also says, “It was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban.” [BBC, 9/18/2001] One specific threat made at this meeting is that the Taliban can choose between “carpets of bombs”
—an invasion—or “carpets of gold”
—the pipeline. [Brisard and Dasquie, 2002, pp. 43] Naik contends that Tom Simons made the “carpets” statement. Simons claims, “It’s possible that a mischievous American participant, after several drinks, may have thought it smart to evoke gold carpets and carpet bombs. Even Americans can’t resist the temptation to be mischievous.” Naik and the other American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. [Salon, 8/16/2002]
Entity Tags: Uzbekistan, Tom Simons, Russia, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Mullah Omar, Lee Coldren, Niaz Naik, Osama bin Laden, Karl Inderfurth, Taliban, Bush administration (43)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the Russian government realizes the US will attempt to push into the Central Asian “Stans”—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—as part of the US effort to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the region. But these countries had been part of the Soviet Union ten years before, and Russia does not want the US increasing its influence there. On September 13, 2001, Russian intelligence officials hold a meeting with Northern Alliance figures and the other governments that support the Northern Alliance—Iran, India, and Uzbekistan. They promise to increase support to the Northern Alliance in an attempt to outbid the US and keep the US military out of the region. Soon after, Tajikistan announces that it will not allow its airspace to be used by US aircraft. But Uzbekistan is the key country, since it has the most military bases inherited from the Soviet era, the largest population, and also a key strategic location. It also has been working with the CIA against al-Qaeda and the Taliban for several years (see 1998 and After). Uzbekistan indicates it is going to allow the US to base some of its military operations there. Realizing that the other countries are likely to follow Uzbekistan’s lead, Russia switches positions and attempts to make a collective offer to the US. On September 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting in Moscow with the leaders from all the “Stans” in an attempt to reach a joint agreement about allowing the US to use former Soviet military bases. A formal deal is reached between the US and Russia on September 22 after Putin speaks to President Bush on the telephone.
The US agrees that its bases in the region will only be temporary.
Bush will stop criticizing Russia for its war in Chechnya.
The US will consult with Russia before taking further steps in Central Asia.
The US will help accelerate Russian integration into Western economic institutions.
Russian commanders who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s give extensive briefings to US Army generals.
By this time, CIA teams are already moving into the K2 air base in southern Uzbekistan. Tajikistan also reverses course and allows the US to use bases there as well. Deals between the US, Russia, and Central Asian countries are initially kept secret from the public. But within days of the agreement between Putin and Bush, newspapers begin to report that US forces are moving into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Other countries make similar deals later (see September 22, 2001-December 2001). [Rashid, 2008, pp. 69-71]
A Mirage 2000-D fighter in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in February 2002. [Source: Shamil Zhumatov/ Reuters]Witnesses begin to report US military planes secretly landing at night in the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The US, Tajik, and Uzbek governments initially deny that any US troops have been sent there. [Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001; Associated Press, 9/25/2001] By October 5, witnesses say a “huge military buildup” has already occurred. [Daily Telegraph, 10/4/2001] In fact, on September 22, the US and Russia signed a secret agreement allowing the US to use bases in the Central Asian countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, but only on a temporary basis (see September 13-22, 2001). The US then makes deals with individual countries:
Uzbekistan - On October 7, the US and Uzbekistan sign a secret agreement that reportedly is “a long term commitment to advance security and regional stability.” [Financial Times, 10/13/2001] The US is allowed to use the massive K2 (Karshi-Khanabad) air base in southern Uzbekistan. CIA teams begin arriving at the base just days after 9/11, while an agreement to use the base is still being worked out, and by mid-October there are 2,000 US troops there. Germany is also allowed to set up a resupply base in Termez, close to the border with Afghanistan. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 70-71]
Kyrgyzstan - The US begins using the Manas air base in the nearby country of Kyrgyzstan in December 2001. “There are no restrictions” in the agreement on what the US can do with this base, and it will be a “transportation hub” for the whole region. [New York Times, 1/9/2002] The base is only 200 miles from China. [Christian Science Monitor, 1/17/2002]
Tajikistan - The French are allowed to base their Mirage fighters at Dushanbe, Tajikistan. They will withdraw in November 2005. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 70-71]
Turkmenistan - Turkmenistan only allows US overflight rights and support for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
Kazakhstan - Kazakhstan initially only allows US overflight rights as well. But in March 2002 it will be reported that US special forces are training troops in Kazakhstan in a secret location (see March 30, 2002). [Rashid, 2008, pp. 70-71]
In early 2002, it will be reported that the US military bases in the region, “originally agreed as temporary and emergency expedients, are now permanent.” [Guardian, 1/16/2002]
According to the Moscow Times, the Russian government sees the upcoming US conquest of Afghanistan as an attempt by the US to replace Russia as the dominant political force in Central Asia, with the control of oil as a prominent motive: “While the bombardment of Afghanistan outwardly appears to hinge on issues of fundamentalism and American retribution, below the surface, lurks the prize of the energy-rich Caspian basin into which oil majors have invested billions of dollars. Ultimately, this war will set the boundaries of US and Russian influence in Central Asia—and determine the future of oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea.”
[Moscow Times, 10/15/2001] The US later appears to gain military influence over Kazakhstan, the Central Asian country with the most resource wealth, and closest to the Russian heartland (see March 30, 2002).
Reportedly, the US is improving bases in “13 locations in nine countries in the Central Asian region.”
[Christian Science Monitor, 1/17/2002] US military personnel strength in bases surrounding Afghanistan has increased to 60,000. [Los Angeles Times, 1/6/2002]
“Of the five ex-Soviet states of Central Asia, Turkmenistan alone is resisting pressure to allow the deployment of US or other Western forces on its soil…”
[Guardian, 1/10/2002] On January 9, the speaker of the Russian parliament states, “Russia would not approve of the appearance of permanent US bases in Central Asia,” but Russia seems helpless to stop what a Russian newspaper calls “the inexorable growth” of the US military presence in Central Asia. [Guardian, 1/10/2002] Commenting on the bases, one columnist writes in the Guardian: “The task of the encircling US bases now shooting up on Afghanistan’s periphery is only partly to contain the threat of political regression or Taliban resurgence in Kabul. Their bigger, longer-term role is to project US power and US interests into countries previously beyond its reach.… The potential benefits for the US are enormous: growing military hegemony in one of the few parts of the world not already under Washington’s sway, expanded strategic influence at Russia and China’s expense, pivotal political clout and—grail of holy grails—access to the fabulous, non-OPEC oil and gas wealth of central Asia.”
Opium production in Afghanistan, 1980-2005. Based on United Nations data. [Source: UNODC/MCN] (click image to enlarge)Roughly 4,600 tons of opium are harvested in Afghanistan during 2004, according to a December 2004 statement by Russian Federal Drug Control Service Oleg Kharichkin. By the end of the year, more than 206,000 hectares in Afghanistan are reportedly planted with the crop. The Russians believe that 2005 production will approach 5,000 tons. [PakTribune (Islamabad), 12/22/2004]
Russia releases all former Russian Guantanamo detainees from prison without trial after four months in jail. [BBC, 10/4/2004]
In his biggest break from Bush administration policies to date, President Obama announces his abandonment of Pentagon plans to build a missile defense shield system in Poland and the Czech Republic. During a July Moscow visit, Obama indicated that he would order a 60-day review of the project. The findings since then are said to conclude that Iran’s long-range missile program is progressing more slowly than previously thought; the resulting report also cites US officials’ belief that Iran’s short- to medium-range program poses a more potent and immediate danger. Therefore, the system is to be replaced by other facilities, placed closer to Iran. Obama says that the new approach offers “stronger, swifter, and smarter defense” for the US and its allies. He adds that the move will more readily focus on the threat posed by Iran’s proliferation of short- and medium-range missiles, as opposed to its intercontinental nuclear capabilities. “This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems to offer greater defenses to the threat of attack than the 2007 European missile defense program,” he says.
Russian Reaction - Russia had asserted that the undertaking was aimed against Russia and threatened to deploy short-range nuclear weapons in the Russian region of Kaliningrad, just inside the European Union. However, now it suggests that Obama’s decision will not garner swift or generous concessions on its part, but a foreign ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, describes the move as “obviously a positive sign for us” while assuring that the decision was unilateral by Washington alone. Nesterenko says that there have been no deals with Moscow on Iran or any other issues. “That would disagree with our policy of resolution of any problems in relations with any countries, no matter how difficult or sensitive they may be.” Recently, however, analysts said that the decision would assist Obama in securing Moscow’s cooperation with a possible new sanctions package against Iran as well as further the president’s desire to reset relations with Moscow after a bleak period under the Bush administration. “Obama has taken a step in the direction of improving US-Russian relations. This will definitely help build a partnership,” Yevgeny Miasnikov, a senior research scientist at Moscow’s Centre for Arms Control, says. “Russia will also now make some concessions, maybe on strategic talks over nuclear arms reduction or maybe over Iran. Moscow will try to catalyze the process of improving US-Iranian relations and will facilitate dialogue between the two sides. I don’t think threatening Iran is the way to solve this problem,” he adds.
Prior Notification to Allies - The night before his announcement, Obama telephoned leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic to tell them he had dropped plans to construct missile interceptors and a radar station in their respective countries, telling them that his decision was prompted by advances in missile technology and new intelligence about Iran’s existing missile capabilities. He said that “updated intelligence” on Iran’s existing short- and medium-range missiles showed they were “capable of reaching Europe,” adding that the US would continue its efforts to end Iranian attempts to develop an “illicit nuclear program.”
Reaction of Poland and Czech Republic - While many Western European leaders cheer the US’s decision, the Czech Republic and Poland express disappointment with the White House’s reversal following six years of intricate negotiations. Senior government sources in the two countries say they will insist that the US honor pledges made last year by the Bush administration to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in exchange for agreeing to the missile defense deployment plans. Former Czech deputy prime minister and Washington ambassador Alexandr Vondra, who was intimately involved in the negotiations, says: “This is a U-turn in US policy. But first we expect the US to honor its commitments. If they don’t they may have problems generating support for Afghanistan and on other things.” According to Miasnikov, the US may now consider ways of mollifying Poles and Czechs, which might include providing Patriot interceptors that are capable of shooting down short- and medium-range missiles. [Guardian, 9/17/2009]
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