Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ahto Lobjakas, "Russia opens Afghan transit route for NATO's Germany," RFE/RL, November 21, 2008.

Germany has became the first NATO nation to win Russian permission to use the country’s railways to transit military goods bound for Afghanistan.

NATO officials see the Russian-German transit deal as an encouraging sign.

It is the first major breakthrough in Russian-Western military relations since the Georgian conflict in August.

It is also the first time Russia has permitted a NATO ally to transit military supplies via an overland route.

But Russia has been careful to avoid giving the impression it is returning to business as usual with the Atlantic alliance, which indefinitely suspended cooperation in the NATO-Russia Council to protest Moscow’s actions in Georgia.

A statement posted on the website of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry on November 20 says Russia wants to deepen cooperation with the alliance on Afghanistan. But the statement only refers to bilateral transit agreements concluded with individual allies such as Germany, and does not mention a NATO-Russia land-transit accord signed on the margins of the NATO summit in Bucharest in April.

NATO officials play down the distinction.

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