Sunday, August 19, 2007

Russia, China, Iran 'Warn' US To Stay Out Of Central Asia

Russia And China Hold War Games

Russia Returns To "Permanent" Long Range Strategic Bomber Flights Across Pacific And Arctic

The economic, strategic and military alliance between China, Iran and Russia continues to firm, as war games in the mountains of Southern Ural involving thousands of Russian and Chinese soldiers, and military units from all member states of theSCO, draw to a close.

Barely reported in Western media was that the Iranian president was a guest of the Chinese and Russian presidents during the week of war games and meetings, and India and Pakistan both sent teams of observers.

Russia has now declared that Iran is not a threat to any nation, and China is buffeting approaches from the United States to join them in a renewed push for tighter economic sanctions against Iran.

At a meeting last week of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) before the war games began, the leaders of Russia, China and Iran issued a joint statement, clearing intending to warn the United States to stay out of Central Asia :

The leaders of Russia, China and Iran have warned the outside world to leave Central Asia alone to look after its own stability and security...

"Stability and security in Central Asia are best ensured primarily through efforts taken by the nations of the region on the basis of the existing regional associations," the leaders said at the end of the (SCO) summit in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an observer at the summit, criticized U.S. missile defense plans as a threat to the entire region. "These intentions go beyond just one country. They are of concern for much of the continent, Asia andSCO members," he said.

(China's President) Hu also said signaled that security for Central Asia was best left to the nations themselves.

"The SCO nations have a clear understanding of the threats faced by the region and thus must ensure their security themselves," he said.

Putin didn't mention the United States in his speech at the summit, but he said that "any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally are hopeless." He also called for "strengthening a multi-polar international system that would ensure equal security and opportunities for all countries" — comments echoing Russia's frequent complaints that the United States dominates world affairs.

The SCO was created 11 years ago to address religious extremism and border security issues in Central Asia. In recent years, with Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia signing on as observers, the group has increasingly grown into a bloc aimed at defying U.S. interests in the region, which has huge hydrocarbon reserves.

In 2005, the SCO called for a timetable to be set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from two member countries, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan evicted U.S. forces later that year, but Kyrgyzstan still hosts a U.S. base, which supports operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Russia also maintains a military base in Kyrgyzstan.

Moscow and Beijing have developed what they dubbed a "strategic partnership" after the Soviet collapse, cemented by their perceptions that the United States dominates global affairs.

The SCO, whose members are some of the world's biggest energy producers and consumers, also discussed ways to enhance energy cooperation. The U.S. has supported plans for new pipelines that would carry the region's oil and gas to the West and bypass Russia, while Moscow has pushed strongly to control the export flows.

China also has shown a growing appetite for energy to power its booming economy.

A further sign of the group's intention to influence energy markets was the participation in the Bishkek summit of Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, whose country is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the former Soviet Union after Russia. Turkmenistan is not a SCO member; the president was attending as a guest

More on the Chinese-Russian war games :

Fighter jets streaked through the air as Russian and Chinese forces held their first joint maneuvers on Russian land Friday in a demonstration of their growing military ties and a shared desire to counter U.S. global clout.

The war games in the southern Ural Mountains involved some 6,000 troops from Russia and China along with a handful of soldiers from four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations that are part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional group dominated by Moscow and Beijing.

The drills coincided with a massive Russian air force exercise in which dozens of Russian strategic bombers ranged far over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.

President Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader Hu Jintao and other leaders of the SCO nations attended the exercise, which followed their summit Thursday in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

Friday's military exercise involved dozens of aircraft and hundreds of armored vehicles which countered a mock attack by terrorists and insurgents striving to take control of energy resources.

The United States, Russia and China are locked in an increasingly tense rivalry for control over Central Asia's vast hydrocarbon riches.

Moscow objects vehemently to Washington's plans to deploy missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, saying the system would threaten Russia security. The United States says the missile defenses are necessary to avert the threat of possible missile attacks by Iran.

Virtually all the member states of the SCO, and observer nations, like Pakistan and India, have aired public, or diplomatic level, objections to the United States' plans for a missile defence shield.

For what it's worth, Russia is still denying that the SCO is a military bloc. They're fighting terror, says Putin :
Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed as irrelevant allegations that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a military bloc, and highlighted its increasing role in economic cooperation.

Putin said after the exercises: "The SCO today is an organization tackling political and economic issues, and the economic aspect is increasingly coming to the foreground." Comparisons with NATO are entirely untrue, he said.

Although the "Shanghai Six" was originally set up to deal with border disputes that emerged following the breakup of the Soviet Union between the newly-independent states and China, these problems have since been resolved, he said.

The Russian president said that cooperation between member states' militaries is more anti-terrorist than military in nature. Moscow is still faced with the threat of terrorism, and will continue counter-terrorism efforts both at home and abroad, in conjunction with its partners, he added.

To ram the message home that Russia, and the SCO alliance, will not tolerate the United States trying to expand its role as 'global policemen', in effect trying to dominate world events, Russia has renewed "permanent" strategic bomber patrols across the Pacific and Arctic :
We have decided to renew flights of Russian strategic aviation on a permanent basis," Mr Putin said after he and Chinese PresidentHu Jintao attended large-scale joint military exercises near this town in the Urals region.

The flights would resume from Saturday, Mr Putin said.

The announcement came days after Moscow said its strategic bombers had begun exercises over the North Pole, and just a week after Russian planes flew within a few hundred kilometres of a US military base on the island of Guam.

"Russia unilaterally stopped flights of its strategic aviation in distant areas of military action. Unfortunately, not everyone followed our example," he said, in an apparent reference to the United States.

Russia has some 80 long range strategic bombers, many left over from the era of Soviet military build-up, all are said to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The United States is pretending to not be concerned about Russian bomber flights over the Pacific and Arctic :

The United States on Friday shrugged off Russia's decision to resume long-range strategic bomber flights, merely saying it was an "interesting" move.

"If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again that's their decision," State Department spokesman SeanMcCormack said.

He was commenting after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia would immediately resume long-range strategic bomber flights on a "permanent" basis, ending its 15-year suspension of such missions.

"That is a decision for them to take; it's interesting," McCormack added.

The announcement came days after Moscow said its strategic bombers had begun exercises over the North Pole, and just a week after Russian planes flew within a few hundred kilometers (miles) of a US military base on the island of Guam.

A top US commander said Tuesday that the long-range Russian bombers were flying more often and closer to US territory.

General Gene Renuart, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and US Northern Command, the agencies charged with protecting US and Canadian airspace, said US forces would continue to monitor the activity.

In the five-day exercises over the North pole that began Tuesday, the nuclear-capable bombers practised firing cruise missiles, navigation in the polar region and aerial refueling maneuvers, the Russian air force said in a statement.

More on the welcome the Iranian president received at the SCO summit last week, and the growing expansion of the alliance, which may soon include Afghanistan :
Russia and China today host Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a summit of a Central Asian security club designed to counter U.S. influence in the region.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization invited Iran to become an observer in 2005, sparking concern in the U.S., and Ahmadinejad called for closer ties to the group when he attended last year's summit in Shanghai. Kyrgyzstan is hosting the one-day annual meeting in its capital, Bishkek.

Chinese and Russian officials say the SCO, set up in 2001 with the stated goal of strengthening regional cooperation and combating terrorism, is focused on maintaining stability in the region. Its six members include the four Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose country is battling a resurgent Taliban, is a guest at the summit. Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui said Aug. 11 the group wants to cooperate with Afghanistan in fighting drug smuggling and terrorism.

In another unwelcome development for the Americans, Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov also accepted an invitation to attend the summit. His long-ruling predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, who died last year, had kept the energy-rich country isolated and resisted Russian influence.

Russia in May secured a deal to build a new pipeline to import more gas from Turkmenistan, bolstering its dominant hold on supplies to Europe and heading off a competing U.S.-backed plan that would bypass Russian territory.

Finally, a report on the massive re-arming programs that Russia has launched, as Putin seeks to give Russia a formidable international military presence :
Russian defense spending rose by 22 percent and 27 percent in the past two years, respectively, and could be up as much as 30 percent this year. In February, Sergei Ivanov, then defense secretary and now one of the front-runners to replace Mr. Putin next year, announced an almost $200 billion program of expenditures.

According to Jane's Sentinel Country Risk Assessments, the Russian shopping list includes two new submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles, the Bulava and the Sineva — both with a 5,000-mile range and capable of carrying 10 nuclear warheads — and a new anti-aircraft missile, the S-400, which the Russian Defense Ministry claims is effective against incoming missiles. Production of the new SS-27 Topol-M missile, the land-based equivalent of the Bulava, has also begun.

Russia also plans to spend heavily on the new TU-160 strategic bomber, which can launch cruise missiles, the SU-34 "Fullback" fighter-bomber, capable of all-weather attacks on heavily defended targets, and a new fifth-generation fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, which is expected to come into service in 2008 as Russia's main lightweight front-line fighter.

The expanded Russian fleet will include six new nuclear-powered aircraft carriers — a dramatic increase from only one such carrier — and eight ballistic-missile submarines.

The formation and solidifying of 'The Other NATO' would appear to be progressing at an upwards pace comparable to the downwards pace of the Coalition of the Willing's progress in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Between NATO and the CoW, taking in the US, Australia and the UK, primarily, and the growing power and influence of the SCO alliance lies Iran.

China and Russia, along with many other member and observer states of the SCO, regard the protection of Iran as being in their "national interest". NeoCons and US hawks continually push for BushCo. to strike Iran now, and not wait until it begins a nuclear armed nation, if that is Iran's intention. China and Russia state that it is not Iran's intention, and would regard any aggression towards Iran by BushCo. or Israel, as being an act of aggression towards the SCO alliance.

Interesting, dangerous times indeed.

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