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ULYANOVSK, August 1 (Itar-Tass) —— President Vladimir Putin said Russia should help NATO with cargo transportation to Afghanistan.
At a meeting with paratroopers on Wednesday, August 1, one of them asked the president whether Russia can benefit from a NATO transport hub in Ulyanovsk. Putin replied with a counter-question: “Do we need to fight there?”
The answer was “No”. “That’s right: we don’t,” he said and went on with another question: “But do we need elementary order in Afghanistan?”
The answer was “Yes” and the president said: “We are interested in that. We are interested in calm on our southern borders. The incumbent leadership of that country has a difficult time. There is a constant NATO military presence in Afghanistan now and they need to be helped. Let them fight there. I understand that if something goes wrong and it requires the participation of our Armed Forces and yours, paratroopers’, you are ready. But our task as politicians is to prevent such events. We have to help in all possible ways in order to prevent the use of our Armed Forces there.”
He admitted that Russia and NATO disagree on other issues and recalled that the alliance had been created during a period of confrontation. “They thought that the threat was coming from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. There is no longer threat now, but NATO is still there. It’s atavism,” Putin said.
“This is why they are looking for opponents. But in this particular case they are doing the right thing and we are helping them. It’s only regrettable that all the countries involved in Afghanistan think about how to get out of there. This is why we are helping them not so much with transportation to Afghanistan as from there. That’s regrettable. If they assumed obligations, they must fulfill them to the end,” the president said.
Despite all disagreements “we will cooperate with them on many issues, specifically in the fight against maritime piracy and terrorists” because this “serves our national interests”, Putin said.
On July 6, Russia and NATO officially formalised an expansion of nonlethal cargo transit for the international coalition troops in Afghanistan through Russia.
Nonlethal cargoes include containers with personal belongings of military personnel, clothes, tents, beds, blankets, household appliances, and wheeled unarmed vehicles.
NATO is beginning to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan this year to complete this process by the end of 2014. Since there are nearly 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, this will require a large amount of transportation that will be carried out using three routes: Russia, or northern, route will provide for airlifting the troops to Ulyanovsk and then transporting them further to Europe by railroad; the central route runs through Kazakhstan and the Transcaucasia; and the southern route lies through Pakistan. It is considered the most risky as it goes through southern provinces of Afghanistan and areas bordering on Pakistan where the Taliban’s positions are quite strong.