Friday, January 29, 2010

Russia offers to help NATO, but not for free

MOSCOW -- Russia is willing to help NATO in Afghanistan, but not for free, the Russian envoy to the alliance said Friday.

Dmitry Rogozin also slammed NATO for failing to do more to fight the drug trade in Afghanistan, saying Russia has suffered because of that failure. And he expressed skepticism about a plan to pay Taliban fighters to abandon violence and join the mainstream of Afghan society.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia last month to provide helicopters and training for the Afghan air force and to train more local police.

Rogozin said Russia was looking at the request, but wants to understand who will pay for it. He added that some NATO countries could help share the costs.

"We aren't going to supply NATO with anything free of charge," he said in a video hookup from Brussels. "They can afford to pay for that."

He didn't rule out providing free supplies to the Afghan government, but said that would require a political decision by the Kremlin.

Moscow has repeatedly expressed its willingness to help the war effort in Afghanistan, due to fears that a return to power by Taliban extremists would destabilize Central Asia and endanger Russia's security.

But the country's support for NATO- and US-led operations so far has been limited to offering transit for railway shipments of non-lethal supplies and air corridors for weapons supplies, as supply routes through Pakistan have come under increased Taliban attack.

Rogozin said shipments have been slow to start because NATO has dragged its feet on negotiating transit agreements with Central Asian nations. He also said technical problems regarding U.S. air transit need to be solved, but he refused to elaborate.

He criticized NATO harshly for failing to make stronger efforts to fight drug production.

"NATO doesn't want to do more to fight drugs in Afghanistan, because it fears it would inflict more losses to its forces," he said. "They prefer to turn a blind eye to that. They think it's not their problem, because Afghan heroin mostly goes to Central Asia and Russia."

Rogozin was also openly skeptical of a NATO plan to persuade Taliban fighters to disarm in exchange for jobs and homes, saying that the world community must focus on rebuilding the nation's battered infrastructure. He argued that Russian companies should be awarded contracts for rebuilding factories, power plants and other facilities built by the Soviet Union.



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