India Intelligence Report

   Tenuous Russia-US Relations


Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that his country is “strengthening” its “cooperation” with the US “in the international arena” and cited the positive interaction to provide a renewed deal to Iran. Iran received the proposals terming it “positive” but wanting clarifications on “ambiguities” in the document. Details on the deal have not been made public.

Putin’s remarks belie growing tensions in Russia-US relations. a series of ill-timed and abrasive statements from US Vice President Dick Cheney and American strategic moves in Central Asia and Baltic region are seen to be causing a rapid deterioration of relations to Cold War levels.

Still caught up with its colonial history, Indians are wary about the US or any other country dominating the world to control trade, energy, economy, or policy. Therefore, there is a lot of suspicion in what the US and its allies are up to in the Baltic and Central Asian region.

    The expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to include Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania cut off Russian access to the Baltic Sea.

    The NATO’s expansion of Hungary, Poland, and Czech Republic in 1999 and Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004 are means to cut Russia’s access to the Adriatic Sea.

The active wooing of Kazakhstan to be an ally of the US are moves to cut off Russian access to the Caspian Sea. Although Russia would still have access in the North, that portion is known to freeze in winter rendering it impossible to use.

The Kazakhstan move is also seen as an effort to cut off China from Russia and to restrict access through the densely forested Yablonovy Range and through the Gobi Desert. Many strategists say that this reduces possibilities for gas pipelines from Russia to China thus limiting China’s access to energy.

The US Air Force base Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan is seen as a wedged forward base against both Russia and China. Russia has countered by planning to increase its Air Force levels by 2.5 times in that country (both the US and Russia have Air Force presence in Kyrgyzstan). These moves are efforts to isolate and secure large US investments in Turkmenistan and limit access from China and Russia.

The base in Kyrgyzstan also serves to cut off Iran’s access to China and Russia thus limiting its capacity to sell natural gas which is its strongest asset.

Anti-missile system deployment in Poland and Eastern European nations, air bases in former Warsaw pact nations Romania and Bulgaria, and expansion of the NATO is seen by Russia as a violation of 1997 Russia-NATO pact and also as means to neutralize Russian missile systems.

The active wooing of Ukraine are moves to limit Russia’s access to the Black Sea which could potentially be linked to the Mediterranean Sea via the Bosporus Strait and Troy to the Aegean Sea.

It is not clear what the motives are behind these moves in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Baltic regions. Some say that these moves by the US are aimed at securing energy for itself. Others say that these are moves are aimed to contain Russia and China and preempt any moves by them to group together against the US.

Russia announced that it will be upgrading its nuclear weapons, deploy more missile systems in Belarus, and strengthen its Central Asian presence.

The Ukrainian Parliament recently voted that it wants to be North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) free ending speculation in Russia that Ukraine’s pro-Western “Orange Revolution” led by President Viktor Yushchenko does not mean that it becomes a client state of the US. A few weeks ago, Yushchenko said that he hoped Ukraine would be part of NATO and Russia responded with harsh sanctions on Ukraine that could have decimated the Ukrainian defense industry. This Parliamentary move seemed to stop Yushchenko’s move and also to reflect popular opinion in Ukraine not to align itself with NATO even while developing good relations with the West.

Even so, in recent weeks, Putin has been more measured in his statements with respect to the US. He pointed out that though Russia disagrees with the US on tactics, their strategic goals remain aligned. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), championed by Russia and China, recently clarified that is not an Oriental NATO.