A Return Engagement for Russia

Article excerpt

Byline: Owen Matthews

To this day, many Russians can only wish they had never heard of Afghanistan. But two decades after the Soviet Union's humiliating pullout, NATO is working to get Russia back into the country. The plan, championed by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, would have Moscow provide helicopters to Afghan and NATO forces, train Afghan national-security forces, and assist in counternarcotics programs and border security.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expects to sign the deal at a NATO summit in Lisbon later this month. With that, both Moscow and NATO hope to end their longtime feud. "The summit can mark a new start," says Rasmussen. But this new start comes at a hefty price: Moscow stands to gain far more than the West. In return for its help, Moscow wants restrictions on deployment of any NATO force larger than a 3,000-strong brigade anywhere in the former Soviet bloc. There would also be limits on aircraft deployments in Eastern Europe, and, most controversially, Russia has demanded veto power on any large additional Western military deployments anywhere in Central Europe, the Balkans, or the Baltics. …