The NDN spans from the Black Sea through Moscow, down through central Asia, to Uzbekistan and finally to northern Afghanistan, a considerably longer and more expensive route by both land and air than the Pakistani alternative. The fact that the U.S. has not only expended considerable capital to allow for a greater capacity utilization of the network, but also was willing to put itself at the mercy of the Russians shows Washington’s frustrations in its ongoing charade in Islamabad.
Conveniently, a few days after the alleged NATO attack, Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitri Rogozin stated that if the U.S. continued with its ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Eastern Europe, Russia would look into discontinuing U.S. access to Russian territory and airspace in the NDN.
While Russia is certainly worried about U.S. BMD plans, this show of Russian fortitude is just to extract U.S. concessions. The Russians deduce that the thought of having both major supply lines cut is a strategic doomsday for the U.S., and therefore are looking to strike while the U.S. has no other choice but to acquiesce to Russian demands. However, the Obama Administration should take Russia’s posturing with a grain of salt. The idea of Afghanistan being Russia’s problem again once the U.S. (eventually) leaves makes the hair stand on the back of the Kremlin’s collective neck.
Pakistan is as about as reliable as a Nigerian who tells you he “can be to transfer the significant sum of funds at your account.” Thus, the move to the NDN (though hastened by the alleged NATO attack) was necessary, despite the added costs of maintaining longer supply lines. The U.S.-Russia “reset” seems to be eroding, and with Putin coming back into the presidency this March, the band-aid will likely continue to be pulled off. The Obama administration has stated that the U.S. will be out of Afghanistan in 2014, so relations with Russia will have to remain at least icily cordial until then. Pakistan is for all intents and purposes a failed state and a sponsor of a multitude of terrorist groups, and has no business being a U.S. ally. Consequently, the alleged NATO attack should be construed as a blessing in disguise, forcing the U.S. to continue and accelerate its NDN plans. At the same time, the Obama Administration needs to stand its ground in the current diplomatic game of chicken with the Kremlin.
Ari studied at American University for his BA.