At last there seems to be a deal for military cooperation between NATO and Russia relating to Afghanistan. (I spotted that something along these lines might be about to happen two weeks ago in my post Obama Hasn’t Done His Foreign Affairs Homework” on the 29th February. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov being quoted by Al Jazeera was clearly indicating Russian willingness to help the US in the Middle East and elsewhere).
No Russian troops are being committed at this stage but supply routes by land and air through Russia are being opened up, and Russian military expertise will be used in training Afghan helicopter pilots. At the same time, NATO seems to be backing away from trying to recruit Ukraine and Georgia, as part of this new spirit of cooperation between the West and Russia.
This will no doubt facilitate the deployment of greater numbers of German and French troops into the theatre, as demanded by Canada in a recent NATO meeting, under the threat of withdrawing her 2500 force unless the Germans and the French start doing some of the fighting.
Is it possible that the arrival of Medvedev as the new President is opening up these areas for cooperation, while Putin, on his own was so focused on parading Russian machismo that doing deals with the West was seen as ‘going soft’. Medvedev seems to be a far more reasonable, dare I say civilized character than Putin, who in many ways has been quite barbaric. Is this the classic Mr Nice, Mr Nasty partnership? Also the passing of George Bush to history can only help the situation. Somehow it will be far easier for the Russians to deal with President Obama, than Bush who seems to keep getting it all wrong.
As regards Kosovo, there is no mention at all in the Reuters communique of this new strategic partnership with Russia, as published in the International Herald Tribune. This could still be the point on which the new spirit could unravel, if the West insists on continual humiliation for Serbia. If the West has to weigh up the ‘advantages’ of suppressing the Serb areas of Kosovo, with those of winning a new cooperation from Russia, there is nothing in it.
My guess is that the EU and NATO will beat a tactical withdrawal out of North Kosovo, at some point, after making lots of noises of complaint against the Serbs first. The prize of having Russia as an ally will be just too good to miss. There could be the first hints of a coming climbdown contained in this Al Jazeera bulletin. The Serbian Minister for Kosovo has an arranged meeting with the Head of the UN in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker on Monday.