Putin to NATO: Yankees, Please Stay in Afghanistan

Posted April 14th, 2012 at 7:29 am (UTC+0)

U.S. Army soldiers from12th Infantry Regiment pass through a village while on a patrol last October near Forward Operating Base Blessing, Afghanistan. Photo: International Security Assistance Force

God bless the American soldiers in Afghanistan.

This message of good cheer came from an unexpected corner this week: Russia Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, addressing the entire Duma in Moscow.

First, he set the deputies up by denouncing NATO as “a relic of the Cold War.”

Applause, applause.

Then, before the clapping could fade, he quickly added that, sometimes, just sometimes, NATO plays a “stabilizing role in world affair, such as in Afghanistan.”

“We understand what is happening in Afghanistan – right?” Russia’s educator-in-chief lectured the Duma. “We are interested in things there being under control, right? And we do not want our soldiers to fight on the Tajik-Afghan border, right?”

“It’s in our national interests to help maintain stability in Afghanistan,” he continued. “Well, NATO and the Western community are present there. God bless them! Let them do their work.”

As Vladimir Putin embarks on his second decade running Russia, as he approaches his 60th birthday, the long serving KGB officer is not going soft on the USA.

Instead, he is living out the Biblical admonition: “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

For years, Putin has fanned anti-NATO sentiment. As recently as two months ago, he was using it to rally voters around his candidacy for president. Over the last 15 years, Russian TV viewers have consumed hundreds of hours of anti-NATO “documentaries,” each complete with spooky music and a kooky story line.

No matter that the Central European plain has been wiped largely clean of American battle tanks. Of the 12,500 American tanks in Western Europe in 1982, about 5 percent, or 684 remain today – slightly more than the number maintained by Spain. No matter only 2 percent of American respondents to a recent opinion poll singled out Russia as the primary military threat to the United States.

For Russian politicians, hammering on and on about the NATO threat is cost free and far safer than to talk of the geostrategic threat that dares not speak its name in Moscow: the 3 million active duty and reservists of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

But now, as Putin acknowledges, Russia needs NATO in Afghanistan.

Russian Prime Minister seeks to educate Russia's Duma on the need for NATO troops in Afghanistan. On May 7, Putin returns to the presidency of Russia. During his six year term, he will have to cope with the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, and the possible destabilizing effects on the five republics of former Soviet Central Asia. AP Photo: Ivan Sekretarev

As American taxpayers say “Time’s Up” on our Afghanistan decade, the Kremlin now realizes that it had the best of both worlds: American troops containing in remote Afghanistan a radical Islamic threat to former Soviet Central Asia — and the luxury of complaining about it.

As Washington moves to wrap up its fighting role in Afghanistan over the next 18 months, Russia’s foreign minister and the nation’s top drug enforcement officer responded last week with a classically American approach: they threatened to sue.

They are threatening to sue NATO, or the U.S. government, for not fulfilling U.N. Security Council resolutions mandating the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to stabilize Afghanistan. They argue that NATO troops have to stay in Afghanistan until Afghanistan is stable.

While this could mean a bonanza for New York law firms, it is unlikely that American taxpayers will fund a war to comply with a court order.

(On the financial side, it could be attractive: instead of spending $1 billion a week fighting in Afghanistan, American tax payers can spend $1 million a week fighting in New York courts.)

Putin’s NATO comments are part of different strategy — and directed at a different audience, the Russian people.

Last month, within days of the end of the Russian presidential elections, Kremlin officials started floating trial balloons that an underused airport in Ulyanovsk, a southern city on the Volga, would be used as a cargo hub to move NATO supplies in and out of Afghanistan.

Prior to this, Ulyanovsk’s main claim to fame was that it was re-named after its most famous son, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Vladimir Lenin.

Ulyanovsk’s Communists immediately demonstrated, chanting: “NATO Nyet!”

A “NATO base” they said, will never be built in the birthplace of Lenin.

Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, told the faithful that “the NATO base” near Ulyanovsk was “a gift from Putin to the USA for recognizing the elections.”

On April 7, a column of 1,000 protesters, largely communists and nationalists, marched through central Ulyanovsk, chanting “Russia Without NATO,” and waving signs reading: “No Russian Land For NATO,” and, in English: “NATO Go Home.”

The night before Prime Minister Putin climbed the podium in the Duma to defend the NATO cargo transit deal, police in Ulyanovsk broke up a tent encampment where communists had started a hunger strike.
After Putin gave the signal with his nationally televised address, Russian officials swung into high gear to defend the deal.

Foreign Ministry officials briefed reporters that no NATO officials will be allowed at the cargo transit center in Ulyanovsk.

Unmoved, Eduard Limonov, a radical poet, led his Other Russia group to the Stalin-era high-rise that houses Russia’s Foreign Ministry. There, they set off orange flares and held up a banner reading: “Foreign Ministry: Traitors’ Den.”

Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister in charge of defense industries, has had the hardest job. As Russia’s ambassador to NATO for four years until last December, he specialized in publicly lampooning NATO.

Now he is tweeting overtime, defending the Ulyanovsk deal – and his own nationalist credentials.

“There is no NATO base in Ulyanovsk,” he tweeted. “There is none, and there won’t be any. Those who spread the ‘news’ about NATO bases in Russia are either saboteurs or idiots. Consider this as an official statement.”

In another tweet, he said the cargo jets would carry nonlethal cargo, like “NATO toilet paper.”

In response, protesters last week delivered rolls of toilet paper to government offices.

In Ulyanovsk, Sergei Morozov, the governor, is billing the project as a boost for regional development. He says Volga-Dnepr Airlines, a Russian cargo company based in Ulyanovsk, will profit handsomely from NATO contracts. (The Moscow Times estimates that NATO will try to move out of Afghanistan 70,000 vehicles and 120,000 containers.)

The governor says the deal will pay for upgrading the international airport’s rundown terminal and its 5-kilometer air strip, the world’s third longest public access runway.

Then he holds out this juicy teaser: for each takeoff or landing of an Antonov An-124, the airport would receive a $5,000 fee.

Mmm, yum-yum, presumably salivate the international jet set of Ulyanovsk, a depressed industrial city with population of 615,000.

Once again, the communists are unmoved. Many of them are pensioners who have been unable to afford an airplane ticket since the collapse of communism 20 years ago. At a recent protest, they waved signs referring to their Governor: “Morozov — Doorman for NATO.”

And on the Russian internet, conspiracy videos are going viral.

The spectacular, fatal explosions at Ulyanovsk’s military arsenal in 2009? Obviously steps to clear the way for NATO.

Just a coincidence that NATO chose Ulyanovsk, a city endowed with a rare railroad bridge over the Volga? How naïve! NATO troops will roll east and west, jumping out of railway containers and sowing chaos, from Central Russia to Siberia, just like the Czechoslovak Legionnaires did in 1918-1919.

Maybe it is time for the Kremlin to talk straight to the Russian public.

From Cold War levels, 95 percent of American battle tanks in Western Europe have gone home.

Only 2 percent of Americans now see Russia as the primary military enemy.

If you take away the assets, if you take away the intent, all you have left is the hysteria.

James Brooke
James Brooke is the Russia/CIS bureau chief for Voice of America. A lifelong journalist, he covered West Africa, Brazil, the American Rocky Mountain States, Canada, and Japan/Korea for The New York Times. A resident of Moscow since 2006, he was first Bloomberg bureau chief for the region. In 2010, he joined VOA. In addition to writing Russia Watch, his weekly blog, he also does video, radio and web reports from Russia and the former USSR.

18 responses to “Putin to NATO: Yankees, Please Stay in Afghanistan”

  1. […] Putin to NATO: Yankees Stay in AfghanistanVoice of America (blog)US Army soldiers from12th Infantry Regiment pass through a village while on a patrol last October near Forward Operating Base Blessing, Afghanistan. Photo: International Security Assistance Force This message of good cheer came from an unexpected … […]

  2. […] Putin to NATO: Yankees Stay in Afghanistan – Voice of America (blog) Posted in Afghanistan, Featured Stories, U.S. News, War on Terror, Washington Politics, World at War, World News | Tags: afghanistan, america, blessing, good-cheer, infantry, international, message, pass-through, patrol-last, soldiers, village-while, yankees, yankees-stay /* […]

  3. Ciaran Mulcahy says:

    One never knows when to expect great and wonderful support. MANY THANK’S TO PRESIDENT PUTIN. HIP-HIP-HOO-RAY.

  4. Mark says:

    Putin has always taken on the side of the weak. Why is he now defending the merciless slaughter and pillage in Afghanistan by NATO/US criminals?

    • Tyler says:

      If That remark about Putin and Russia was not so asinine it would be entirely amusing. I am sure that the civilian populations and women and children of Syria, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, to name just 3 examples are laughing at your stupidity.

  5. […] objectives laid out in the UN resolutions authorizing the war, the Russians are threatening to sue. As the Voice of America reports, [The Russians] are threatening to sue NATO, or the U.S. government, for not fulfilling U.N. […]

  6. Richard Cheeseman says:

    The doomed occupation of Afghanistan is a disaster for the US empire and its European satellites. It costs them a fortune and achieves nothing.

    Putin’s support for the occupation of Afghanistan and his general opposition to the NATO criminal gang are not in contradiction. He is assisting the NATO colonial garrison to remain in its Afghan quagmire.

    The fact that the rogue US empire is fighting against the very Islamic extremists it once cynically promoted against the Soviet Union must be the icing on the cake.

  7. almoros says:

    Bye bye the cold war politicians and the blind policies! Welcome home the true European and christian Russians! Thank You so much the strong leader and wise Prime minister Putin! Really, the time of exchanging the shared Europeans’ threats and the world peace enemies has been passing away! Yes, it has been more better for NATO to ever be within Russia and Russia’s space and regions. It has been a bravest and wiser command for NATO to directly ask Russia for Ulyanovsk International airport! Realy, Russia had been in the front line denoating millions of souls of its bravest heros in the European great wars, and ever be Russia in the front line at the greatest threats and drug smuggling wars in its south garden yards! NATO has to respect the Russians’ leaders great worries and fears that not be dominated by the overseas western giant companies, Russians are very clever to know their status! Russians haven’t been a third world nation! Welcome (NATO+Russia) for ever be everlasting world peace!

    • vitaliy says:

      are u kidding guys? i see u dont read russians opposite newspapers/websites. putin changed his direction because of he is getting week:
      1 politic life in Russia “start to boil”
      2 he is scared Taliban and he knows that USA do negotiations with Taliban and Taliban will not stop in border of Afganistan they will spread to Central Asia and his muslim Caucasus and Tatarstan, he is scared.
      3 Russia has big troubles in economics, with leakage of billions $, leakage of smart yung peaple, no development in science and manufacture .
      but when he feel strong he will again blaim and abuse NATO and USA

      • Franco says:

        You need to learn how to spell before you start blogging!

        • Sergey to Franco says:

          Парень видимо не ходил в начальную школу в Англии.
          Так что ты его прости пожалуйста!
          Желаю Удачи

  8. Pyotr says:

    Putin is afraid to lose billions he has stored in some western banks under false identities or anonimously. If he were too stubborn Americans could have just done some bit of investigation and freeze Putin’s treasures abroad. He doesn’t want to lose his financial empire even more than Russia herself. His presidency is needed by himself and his buddies only to save the status quo and continue stealing. If he really wanted to help fight the Taliban he would have let Nato’s bases in the regions nearest to Afghanistan or better let Russia join the NATO and cooperate with allies because peace in Afghanistan is vitally important to Russia now.

  9. vitaliy says:

    to Franco: men the goal of the language is to exchange of the thought/mind. i just started to learn english, only 2 years, but i am speaking very well and i am working in large American Financial institute in NY. of course i have the mistakes cause i don’t have a time to get a school i must feed my wife and doghter and pay rent in NY . AND U ARE NOT ABLE TO CLOSE MY MOUTH 🙂 . peaple here must know different view of the issue/ of the truth to rebuild “the puzzle” of what is happening in the world , i am from old USSR if u know what is it, and i know situations and peaple inside of it and able to give some portion of truth .

    • equalizer says:

      vitaliy, keep posting you’re doing fine……..your words, mispelled, told me that English is your second or third language. Just like, “there are no stupid questions” that is no shame in doing your best, even if that means a few misspelled words. Please accept the following correction as CONSTRUCTIVE criticism…..

      to Franco: Sir, the goal of language is to exchange ideas. I recently began learning English two years ago. My spoken English is well understood, and I am working at a large American Financial institute in NY. My mistakes will lessen when time allows for further schooling. My family responsibilities come before the English vocabulary. I will continue to voice my opinion. People in the United States need to learn differing views on issues so they can piece together the puzzle “of truth”. My insights are based on my having come from the “old USSR”, which allows me to impart my experiences from that perspective.

      Please accept this suggestion in a spirit of cooperation, Cheers! equalizer

  10. riano baggy says:

    i am not agree because American’s people enough suffer this war start in Iraq and Afghanistan
    many American lost their lovely family and the biggest budgets in military operation The best moment their troops back to barracks.

  11. eslaporte says:

    The hidden purpose of NATO is to maintain American hegemony over European security and defense. A bad (possible intended side effect) is the lasting Cold War- type relations with Russia. Give NATO the honorable end that it deserves and allow the Europeans to have their own defense and security arrangements.

    NATO costs Americans $712 million in 2010 (See CBS News “Gates criticizes NATO; How much does U.S. pay?” June 10, 2011) – at at time when we are closing schools, layoff teachers and neglecting our own infrastructure. American needs to build schools, hospitals and roads – in America – not in other countries.

    Europeans can pay for their own security. Washington needs to stop dictating what the Europeans need for their defense and security. What “therats” out there require a Cold War alliance like NATO. Allow the Europeans to determine their own security needs – that is not the place of Washington – but in European national governments!



James Brooke is VOA Moscow bureau chief, covering Russia and the former USSR. With The New York Times, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa, Latin America, Canada and Japan/Koreas. He studied Russian in college during the Brezhnev years, first visited Moscow as a reporter during the final months of Gorbachev, and then came back for reporting forays during the Yeltsin and early Putin years. In 2006, he moved to Moscow to report for Bloomberg. He joined VOA in Moscow in 2010. Follow Jim on Twitter @VOA_Moscow.



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