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Russia 'Encircled' by US and NATO

by Sergey Ptichkin and Aleksey Chichkin

Rossiyskaya Gazeta 22 January 2002

Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca,   23  January 2002

It seems that Moscow has decided to delay its departure from the Cuban signals intelligence station at Lourdes. In any event, the West European and Latin American media are literally overflowing with reports on the subject. Furthermore, in their opinion the main reason for this decision is a decision of the Pentagon and NATO to set up base almost indefinitely in Central Asia including Kazakhstan.

One way or another Russia, like the entire former USSR, remains encircled by a dense ring of military and intelligence-gathering installations belonging to the North Atlantic alliance. And could it be that the Russian military will again be able to "get back" the Vietnamese naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in this connection?...

As Rossiyskaya Gazeta has reported, the main reason for the evacuation from Lourdes and Cam Ranh Bay is that the financial costs of these bases, amounting in total to $400 million-$450 million a year, are beyond the reach of the Russian Defense Ministry. Bear in mind that our defense department's entire budget for the year, and we stress the word entire, barely amounts to $250 million. The money factor is very much in evidence therefore.

But there is another aspect too. "When closing down the Russian military base in Cuba Russia is entitled to expect similar moves in response from the United States," -- this opinion was expressed at the end of last year by Vladimir Kulakov, deputy chairman of the Federation Council Defense Committee. He recalled that since 1998 the US Globus-2 anti-missile defense system radar station has been in operation in Northern Norway, in other words, close to the Norwegian-Russian border, and has an operational range of 35,000 km. This easily covers the territory not only of Russia but of the entire former USSR and Mongolia and... almost the whole of China! "By closing down our military base in Cuba we are removing one of the weapons of the Cold War. And we are entitled to expect that the US Globus-2 radar station in Norway, for example, could also be scrapped," V. Kulakov suggested.

Almost with one voice the Western leaders welcomed the "evacuation" of Lourdes and Cam Ranh Bay. But at the same time there was not a word about counter moves. However, these moves were not long in coming, it has to be said, they are part of the same plot, so to speak: Since December last year the US and NATO troops, first and foremost the air force, have been making full use of the former Soviet military bases in Central Asia leaving aside Turkmenistan (Manas, Kulyab, Khanabad, Qarshi, Chirchik, and a number of others) -- the terrorist acts in New York happened "just in the nick of time." In this region, according to the recent estimates of Russian, Iranian, and Chinese military experts, 8,000-10,000 US and NATO officers and men have already set up base leaving aside what we could call the "dual-purpose" advisers. As the Pentagon claims, this is temporary and will last for the period of the operation against the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, Elizabeth Jones, the US assistant Secretary of State, in a recent address on Capitol Hill revealed what might be called a completely different set of cards -- that of a long term if not indefinite US policy in the south and southeast of the former USSR: "When the Afghan conflict is over we will not leave Central Asia. We have long-term plans and interests in this region and... its countries will be given assistance not only in exchange for concrete steps aimed at the acceleration of reforms." This assistance, which is designed to last at least 10 years, will exceed $11 billion according to the official US figures.

But what is there to be surprised that in this? After all, back in the mid-1990s Central Asia was officially declared to be a sphere of US vital interests and since 1999 has been included in the zone of responsibility of the US troops in the Persian Gulf....

Current US policy in the region, it seems, baffles not only Russia but also China. In addition, it could also wreck the CIS Collective Security Treaty and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It is not hard to see the kind of strategic situation that could develop for our country and for the Russia-Belarus Union if a similar process begins from the Western outskirts of the former USSR, that is, after the Baltic countries join NATO...

In addition to this the strikes against Afghanistan have developed into mass landings by US and British troops in Turkey, Cyprus, the Arabian peninsula, Japan, and South Korea. According to information from the London and Delhi strategic studies institutes the NATO member countries' naval presence in the aforementioned areas between March and December last year increased by 50 percent while the air force presence was approximately doubled. The number of NATO special operation troops in these regions and countries has more than doubled.

But what about the other ends of the earth? According to the latest estimates from foreign sources there are more than 50 US and other NATO member countries' military and intelligence-gathering facilities in the Arctic and Northern Europe. Most of these facilities are based in Northern Norway and Iceland, which are members of the North Atlantic Alliance, Danish-owned Greenland (Denmark is also a NATO member), and on the Norwegian islands to adjacent to Spitsbergen. In addition the US and British radar and other systems in the region of the North Sea and the Sea of Norway "light up" the entire former USSR from one end to the other linking with a similar network in Alaska, Northern Canada, and Japan.

From south to north similar monitoring functions have been entrusted to the US installations in Turkey which is also a NATO participant. Incidentally around 10 US military bases, mainly air force and intelligence-gathering bases, are located there with the greatest number concentrated in eastern and southeast Turkey, in other words close to the border with the former USSR.

More than any other country, Japan is "stuffed" with a great many US military installations: According to the latest figures there are 65 of them here, over 30 of them on Okinawa. Around 80 percent of them are air force bases but the closer you get to the Kuril islands and Sakhalin the greater the number of US naval and intelligence-gathering facilities that there are on the neighboring Japanese soil. The total number of US servicemen in the Land of the Rising Sun now exceeds 70,000.

There are quite a few US bases with intelligence-gathering facilities in South Korea too -- around 30 bases serviced by 25,000 US officers and men. Washington has similar facilities in Taiwan and the Philippines too and they also being set up in Eastern Europe and the Balkans -- on the eve of the entry into NATO of the countries there. Is it likely that the Transcaucasus is next in line?...

In short, Russia and the entire former USSR are not only encircled by a ring of US and NATO military and intelligence-gathering bases, just like 50 years ago. These bases have also "taken root" in Central Asia. Clearly in case of eventualities, is it not?...

Copyright 2002. Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Reprinted for fair use only. 

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