Counter-terrorism struggle remains Russia-NATO cooperation priority – chief of staff

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Counter-terrorism struggle remains Russia-NATO cooperation priority – chief of staff
Published 22-01-2014, 16:18
Counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts continue to top cooperation priorities for Russia and NATO, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov said in Brussels.

"We have accumulated certain experience of joint efforts in fighting terrorism and piracy,” Gerasimov, who met with his NATO counterparts on Wednesday, told reporters after the meeting.

The Russian delegation briefed its NATO colleagues on the results of Russian-Belarussian strategic exercises, Zapad-2013.

The participants praised a Russian-NATO seminar on Afghanistan, hosted by the Military Academy of Russian General Staff, Gerasimov said.

While in Brussels, he held bilateral meetings with Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces Benny Gantz, Chief of the Defense Staff of the British Armed Forces Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defense Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces Thomas Lawson, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Knud Bartels, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Philip Breedlove.

Afghanistan: the top priority for Russia is stability on its southern flank - expert

This year US troops should withdraw from Afghanistan by the decision announced by the Obama administration back in 2011. However, the international community is clearly worried about security in the region. Jeffrey Feldman, editor-in-chief of the influential political blog Frameshop, and Charles Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at the Walsh School of Foreign Service and Government at Georgetown University in Washington shared their opinion about the situation around Afghanistan with the Voice of Russia.

International analysts dispute whether Afghanistan is capable of solving its internal security issues on its own. Others, however, say that any further presence of international troops could destabilise the country. But it’s been almost 13 years since the US and its NATO allies entered Afghanistan and the US today is war weary, with a war wary population. And the withdrawal of troops is not only an international relations concern, but it is also a US domestic issue. Jeffrey Feldman believes:

I think that the Obama administration certainly wants to be gone from Afghanistan, but their approach to withdrawal in general from past engagements has been scaled down so immaturely. I think what Obama would probably like to do for things to step up for the presidential election is to declare that he was able to bring the Afghan conflict to a close by withdrawing the troops. I think that’s the type of political communication that he wants to offer whether Joe Biden or Hilary Clinton, if he wants to give to the Democratic party, so it doesn’t hang like an albatross around their neck.

In the meantime, the US seeks to strike a bilateral security agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to ensure a force of 10, 000 troops would remain in the country. He said the the US should reconsider its stand on a security agreement it wants him to sign, but reiterated that deal should be left to his successor after April's presidential election, unless the US agrees to his conditions. The essential prerequisites include the US agreeing to end airstrikes and raids on Afghan homes and help broker a peace process with the Taliban. But the withdrawal of troops troubles Afghanistan’s neighbours, including Russia that fears destabilization on its southern borders. Professor Charles Kupchan said:

I think that at the end of the day the top priority for Russia is stability on its southern flank and the worst outcome is the return of Islamic extremism to the region, because it might then spread northward to Russia. So, although Russia has expressed discomfort with the presence of American troops in Afghanistan, I think it’s in their interest to see a positive outcome. And I would also point out that over the last few years, despite difficulties between Moscow and Washington, there has been pretty good cooperation in the question of strategic access to Afghanistan via Russian territory and airspace.

In the case of Afghanistan Russia has to choose between the lesser of the two evils – a large presence of international forces in Central Asia, and stability in the region. But international experts agree that the withdrawal of the American contingent will take place no matter what, and the election will not have a significant impact on the matter.


Voice of Russia

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