Back in February, I discussed the supply chain environment and requirements in and around Afghanistan for support of U.S. and NATO operations in the country. At the time, Russia had reduced or cancelled cooperation in supporting or providing transit for logistical supplies into Afghanistan and, combined with Kyrgyzstan possibly pulling its transit base off the table, things looked increasingly difficult going forward for supply chain planners in the U.S. and NATO forces.
Now, as Dr. Barnett recently noted, Kyrgyzstan has reversed its position after securing a better deal with the U.S. regarding its Manas Air Base and now Russia has just announced on Friday (h/t Russia Blog) that it will support expanded transit into Afghanistan mostly through Russian airspace and via air bases like the one at Manas. As the Russia Blog notes, this could be more business for Russian businesses via 3rd party logistics providers and utilizing air transport vehicles such as the Antonov 124 cargo plan pictured below:
The announcement coincides with the upcoming trip to Russia by President Obama, who is seeking to bring back to an even keel the relations between Russia and the U.S. Obviously, a more stable relationship is desired in the face of the increasing investment in Afghanistan operations and the on-going precarious situation in North Korea.
Operations in Afghanistan will require long-term stability in these alternative supply links and the peaceful, steady development of the Central Asia region is a critical part in achieving that stability. The considerable leverage Russia possesses in either making this happen or hampering the desired results will continue to hang over the entire region and our leaders across all facets of the U.S. government must be adept at dealing with Russian decisions and actions into the near- and long-term.