One of the big payoffs from the much touted (yet deeply underwhelming) "reset" of relations with Moscow was sustainment of the northern distribution network, a logistical lifeline to Afghanistan which cuts a hot path through several former Soviet republics. This was to be step one in a larger warming trend with Russia, successfully clearing the air between Moscow and Washington after the Georgian War of 2008.
Unfortunately, Obama's grand diplomatic coup has proven long on rhetoric, short on action. An agreement that was intended to spin the relief valve on the principle Afghan-Pakistani supply route --by supporting 12 military airlift flights a day through Russian airspace-- has fallen flat.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told RFE/RL today that Russia has allowed only one flight of lethal U.S. military equipment to transit its airspace en route to Afghanistan, despite a July agreement envisioning as many as 12 flights a day.
Though the US ambassador to Moscow claims that there were actually 5 flights, with 11 planned, the pact clearly hasn't lived up to expectations. And with troops currently surging into the Hindu Kush, there's still no sign that the operational tempo through the NDN has quickened.
So with logistical strains in Afghanistan swiftly increasing, and Obama's new Silk Road quiet, where are the supplies coming from?
Georgian officials quickly expressed their full support for coalition forces in Afghanistan and reiterated their desire to assist in the diversification of supply routes through the Caucasus. Georgian deputy defense minister Giorgi Muchaidze underlined his government’s commitment to the success of NATO operations, stating in July 2009 that Georgian officials are “fully aware of our strategic responsibility, we stand ready to provide the full access to our infrastructure and the facilities needed for this purpose.”
As of September 2009, a full 30% of the NDN's supplies were routed through Georgia. So Obama cuts missile defense, sacrifices US and Allied interests in eastern Europe up on the altar of "reset," shows every intention to craft our strategic nuclear forces into a posture agreeable to Moscow, and gets an insignificant 5 overflights of Russian airspace as a thank you. Meanwhile, Georgia increases troop presence in Afghanistan (while Russian forces continue to occupy their country), commits its full logistical capabilities to supporting NATO supply efforts, announces its intention to work with other Central Asian states to help expand the NDN -- and this valuable ally gets what, exactly, in return?
Hat Tip: Ben Smith @ Politico