Russia Delivers Last of U.S.-bought Helicopters to Afghan Military
The chill of the Cold War may be in the air in Europe but business relations between the U.S. Department of Defense and Russian defense industry have continued.The last of 63 Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters that the Pentagon ordered for Afghanistan’s military were delivered in October, according to multiple reports.
Additionally, the Russian Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation said it would assist with future helicopter deliveries to the Afghan National Army and help maintain the aircraft already in service.
The helicopter purchases were criticized by U.S. lawmakers when the Pentagon inked the contracts in 2011 because Russia has been a supporter of Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad. Relations between the U.S. and Russia were more recently lowered by Russia’s orchestrated break-away and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Human Rights First, a U.S. watchdog group, told the Wall Street Journal in July 2013 that the Pentagon was paying far too much for the Mi-17. The group said Russia was selling them for between $13 million and $14 million each in 2010. The Defense Department reportedly paid $18 million per aircraft.
The Defense Department found that the Mi-17 performed well in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan, according to Rosoboronexport, the Russian state-owned company that handles the country’s military imports and exports.
In September, the U.S. Air Force took delivery of 20 A-29 Super Tacano light attack planes for the Afghan military. The fixed-wing planes are now at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, where Afghan pilots and maintainers will be trained on them.
Once the training is over, the planes, pilots and ground crews will head back to Afghanistan. The planes, which cost $427 million, are intended to replace the Afghan’s Mi-35 light attack helicopter, which the Air Force said it will reach the end of its service life in early 2016.
China, U.S. partner to train Afghan diplomats
English.news.cn 2014-10-21 02:10:40
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) — A group of young Afghan diplomats began a two-week training session here Monday as part of a joint program co-organized by the United States and China.
This is the third year the United States and China have partnered to train early-career Kabul diplomats, who visit the two countries in order to develop their diplomatic, communications and management skills.
The group, which participated in a two-week training program in Beijing in May, will learn more about U.S. policy regarding Afghanistan, U.S.-China relations, and the way foreign policy is made in the United States while in Washington.
“I’m happy that the U.S. and China have come to see support for Afghanistan’s sovereignty and economic development as an area of common interest and action,” U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman said at the opening ceremony of the training program in the United States.
The joint program is a “good example of how the new model of major-country relationship between China and the United States can contribute to the region,” said Wu Xi, minister of Chinese Embassy in the United States, referring to the consensus reached by the leaders of China and the United States on bilateral relations.
Describing the training as being “useful and productive,” Ahmad Nawid Ariayl, a participant of past programs, said he had benefited from past sessions especially on communications and negotiation skills.
During their two-week stay, the Afghan diplomats are also scheduled to visit the Chinese and Afghan embassies, tour Washington, D.C., meet with diplomats and scholars from various think tanks, practice diplomatic simulations at the University of Maryland, and visit the United Nations and the Afghan consulate in New York City.
At 85, Zbigniew Brzezinski is still the Democratic Party’s best answer to Henry Kissinger. As a global strategist, he has a well-deserved reputation for penetrating insights and prescience dating to the early Cold War. Brzezinski began to write as far back as the 1950s, and later in his first major book, The Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict (1960), that the Soviet bloc was not the great monolith everyone thought it was—and he argued, long before almost anyone else at senior levels of the American government (including Kissinger), that a U.S. policy of subtle counterforce could eventually divide the captive Iron Curtain countries from Moscow. Later, as Jimmy Carter’s hawkish national security advisor in the mid-to-late 1970s, Brzezinski proved to be the proto-Reagan of the Democratic Party, looking for ways to undermine the legitimacy of the USSR. When Moscow invaded Afghanistan in 1980, he pressed Carter to begin the process of funding the mujahideen so as to drain Soviet power. Indeed, in a recent interview Nikolai Patrushev, the current secretary of the Russian Security Council, ascribed the problems of the late Soviet Union to what he called the Brzezinski “strategy of weak spots” and said the United States was still pursuing the same provocative doctrine against Moscow today.
Now Brzezinski is looking over the horizon again, and he warns that the world system will fall into ever-deeper chaos—thanks in large part to Vladimir Putin’s neo-Soviet incursions in Eastern Europe and the bloody maelstrom in the Middle East—unless President Obama and his successor in 2016 act to orchestrate a dramatic shift in global strategic relations. Perhaps the only force that can halt this deepening world disorder, he says, is a frank recognition by the two greatest powers on Earth—the United States and China—that they have to stand together against it. Brzezinski is thus calling for what he describes as a “Pacific Charter” with China, modeled after the August 1941 Atlantic Charter agreement between Britain and the United States that outlined allied goals for the looming world war. Brzezinski thinks that an analogous statement, updated for the present, could actually help prevent a worsening geopolitical climate and help stabilize the international system through a shared mission. Brzezinski is urging Obama to set the idea in motion starting with his Nov. 12 summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
He spoke about his ideas with Politico Magazine’s Michael Hirsh.
ZB: Seventy-five years ago, in the darkest days of World War II, the Atlantic Charter served as an inspiring proclamation of hope at a time of widespread global anxiety that the world was falling victim to hegemonic tyranny. Today, the presidents of the world’s two most important, albeit politically very different, states need to convey credibly to the world their determination to enhance their global cooperation in coping with ongoing and emerging geopolitical crises. Global stability—economic as well as political—is at risk.
Shared Sino-American global security goals would not mean that one partner dictates to the other. U.S.-PRC differences will persist, and on the Asian regional level they can even be a source of mutual irritation. Nor should it mean that we ignore the basic differences between our political systems and values. But a joint affirmation of American-Chinese engagement in sustaining international stability can generate broader collaboration between these two super-powers in containing dangerous threats that actually point also at their own interests.
At this stage, even the very fact of such affirmation would be globally reassuring. And for America and China, a common stand regarding the imperatives of global political stability—based on shared respect for international “rules of the game”—could in turn also increase the likelihood of a peaceful resolution by them of their reciprocal grievances in the Far East.
A strong joint statement—perhaps a Pacific Charter pledging comprehensive geostrategic cooperation—would be a timely assurance that America and China do take seriously the responsibilities inherent in what has been called “the world’s most important bilateral relationship.”
MH: But is such a pact feasible? Aren’t China and the United States too different in terms of their political systems and the way they view the world? They are fighting over Internet freedom, democracy, and interests in East Asia. Chinese officials are even hinting that they believe Washington is behind the unrest in Hong Kong. In addition, there is a sense that the Chinese are up and coming and want to replace us.
ZB: It is true that the U.S. and Britain shared basic values and political systems that enabled the Atlantic Charter, but in the postwar world, in many ways, their geopolitical interests clashed more than those of the United States and China today. The British at the time wanted to keep their empire, while the United States wanted a United Nations, and the two clashed bitterly over the postwar economic system at Bretton Woods. Today the United States and China are actually in more alignment on global issues, and especially the global economy, than the United States and Britain were in the post-World War II period. Economically we are to some significant degree interdependent with Chinese well-being. That is a great asset. So this is what gives me some degree of confidence in advocating greater cooperation. We can cooperate to support the dollar, and to maintain a steady flow of capital back and forth, but beyond that we have to ask ourselves: Can we do more together to prevent political chaos from exploding in several directions at once?
We know that something is malfunctioning worldwide. There is a crisis in the Middle East, which may be spreading rapidly. Secondly, there is crisis in Europe, where Russia is the principle intriguer and player, which affects a major source of international business and flow of capital. So the leadership of these two countries, the United States and China, has to focus on this very deliberately, and not just issue slogans. We have fallen far short in working together on what is needed in these new prevailing circumstances, which are much more revolutionary and much more explosive—and in the case of Russia’s ambiguous behavior potentially much more dangerous too—than what we have seen in a long time. Putin has mentioned several times lately that Russia has a lot of nuclear weapons. That’s not an explicit threat but it comes close to it. And all these overflights by Russian military aircraft in Europe are clearly not intended to improve Russian commercial aviation.
MH: Would a strong message of U.S.-Chinese cooperation change the calculus in Moscow?
ZB: It might. Because I don’t think the Russians can succeed in their maximum objectives if the West holds together and the Chinese are not sympathetic to what they’re doing.
MH: How has the behavior of Russia and Putin’s regime made it more imperative and perhaps more likely that a new relationship between the United States and China can be achieved?
ZB: One thing we know: Things will become even more destabilized if we don’t step up Sino-U.S. cooperation. If you want to envisage a worst-case scenario, it is that Putin reveals step by step the inner weaknesses of the West, particularly in Europe, and the Chinese see in that an opportunity for emulation in the Far East, and then step by step through a gradual process we will be witnessing the emergence of Sino-Russian partnership in favor of a drastic change in the global balance of power.
MH: Clearly the Russians are aiming for that. The Chinese are being wooed by Moscow and we’re not doing enough wooing ourselves.
ZB: I’m not talking about wooing. I’m talking about the fact that we are the two most powerful systems in the world, politically and socio-economically, that we are aware of the fact and so are they, and that if we don’t work together each will suffer badly. But the key point is both of us will suffer badly, together. And therefore we each have a stake in that not happening. And therefore, in turn, we have a reason to seek ways of collaborating as part of strategic partnership.
MH: You’ve had conversations with some senior Chinese officials in recent months…
MH: What is your sense of their view of the idea of a Pacific Charter? Are they looking for this? You have a relatively new regime in Beijing. President Xi has been focused on consolidating his power internally and they’ve been throwing their weight around Asia.
ZB: My sense is that in the upper echelons—not the top leadership, but the intellectual and military elites—there is a growing inclination to voice explicitly anti-American criticism, accusations and even denunciations, including over Hong Kong. In a society like China’s, where everything is censored, you cannot dismiss this as just extremist ranting. But insofar as the top leadership is concerned, in terms of political but also economic considerations, there is a strong preference for the view that America and China can enhance their respective positions by working together, and that a clash between us will be a domestic calamity, first for the Chinese but also for us.
MH: Several years ago, around the time of the financial crash, we saw a lot of Chinese disdain for the United States, and they expressed doubts whether they could invest in the long-term future of America. Has that changed? Have we regained their respect to some degree?
ZB: I think they recognize, and this is both on the government and on the private level, that a financially secure America is of some value to China. And they want, on a private level at least, to be deploying their wealth in America as a personal safety measure.
MH: Inevitably, in considering your proposal, people will hark back to the Nixon-Kissinger opening to China in 1972, the idea of reaching out to Beijing during a period of relative U.S. weakness—then it was the imminent loss in Vietnam—and bringing them over to the U.S. side. Are there parallels?
ZB: I think the closer parallel is actually Deng Xiao-ping’s willingness to collaborate with the United States against Russia in Afghanistan, as well as on intelligence and political issues.
MH: During the time you were in office?
ZB: Yes, but also after we left, it continued under Reagan and [George H.W.] Bush. So it was bipartisan. I think Chinese interest in dealing with the United States when Nixon and Kissinger very skillfully opened up the relationship was more in avoiding Russian military aggression against China. America cleverly exploited it, but the moves didn’t go much further at that moment.
MH: Looking ahead to 2016, what’s your advice to next president?
ZB: If the Republicans emerge successfully in 2016, as they have in 2014, they’d better ask themselves: If they want to rebuff the Chinese, do they have any alternative partner for us? Or do they want us to go it alone? Do they want us to withdraw from the world?
MH: There are a lot of Republicans, it seems, who do want to withdraw. We see the emergence of a kind of neo-isolationism or, as they’re calling it now, non-interventionism.
ZB: But the problem with that is if we don’t like what’s happening in the world, and we withdraw from it, we live now in an age in which that which we do not like will come to us. Republicans ought to ask themselves whether what they advocate would be approved by any one of their modern presidents, that is to say, George Bush the first, Reagan or Nixon. They were all believers in America having strong partners abroad.
MH: On the Democratic side, it is not very clear what strategic vision a President Hillary Clinton might pursue. Your advice to her?
ZB: It would be exactly the same. We are no longer a hegemon in the world. That’s very important to recognize. And that in turn actually involves more of a role for China than it currently exercises and—and I say this sadly—some limitations on American global domination, which is waning in some places, most notably in the Middle East.
But we are still preeminent. And let’s use that enormous asset to reinforce it by intelligence sharing and collaboration with a country that I think at this stage of history needs the same degree of stability and predictability. Because if they don’t the things that haunt us will also turn against them.
MH: Elaborate on what these U.S. limitations are?
ZB: We have to acknowledge them simply by facing reality. For example American influence in the Middle East is plummeting. And I cannot see it being restored, because either the Middle East will become more authentically self-governed, either in the institutionalization of moderate Islam, which accepts as compatible with it Western-type democratic procedures, or it will become a Wahhabi or Sufi exercise of extremism, the latter of which we have seen already to some extent in Shiite Iran.
MH: Is there some way that China could exercise this influence?
ZB: I think China could contribute to making it more difficult for extremists to prevail, especially because if it doesn’t, it’s more likely that what we see today in the Middle East will be subject to a spread of the violence northward and northeastward. China could help by exercising influence in Afghanistan after we are gone, and for example in Turkey and Iraq.
MH: You’ve had a pretty good record of prognosticating over the years. Come January 2017, what will the next president will face?
ZB: That depends really very much on what happens in the next two years. If we remain paralyzed and divided, and maybe even a little uncertain at the very top, it’s going to be an increasingly unsettled and dangerous world. Putin can destabilize not only Eastern Europe but also central Europe, and therefore he can undermine the viability of the EU and what NATO stands for by simply chipping away and increasing the level of violence. Look at these Russian overflights. [[LINK??]] What is the meaning of that? How would they like it if NATO did overflights of their territory?
There could easily be disruptions between other countries, like India and Pakistan, where the extremist movement is rather strong. The Pakistanis have 64 deployed nuclear weapons, according to the latest count, and their range will increase… If things begin to deteriorate rapidly there the consequences in no time flat that are global.
We must also recognize, again, that America may never regain its influence in the Mideast. The 2003 war completely discredited America in the region. It would have been different if an uninvaded Iraq, along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, would have been in position of doing something about Syria. Saudi Arabia was able to intensify the conflict there but not win it.