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From NYTimes.com: MOSCOW — Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament ratified an agreement on Thursday to allow the United States to maintain operations at an airport that has become a key support base and transit hub for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

From NYTimes.com: MOSCOW — Kyrgyzstan has essentially reversed a decision to close an American air base that is central to the NATO mission in nearby Afghanistan, after the United States acceded to sharply higher rent and to minor restrictions on the site, officials said on Tuesday . . .

One major change, though, is the rent. It will rise to $60 million annually from $17.4 million, Kadyrbek Sarbayev, Kyrgyzstan’s foreign minister, told the Kyrgyz Parliament on Tuesday.

Washington will also pay $36.6 million to expand the airport, and contribute tens of millions of dollars toward economic development and the fight against drug trafficking, Mr. Sarbayev said. He said the agreement would be for one year, and be contingent on the situation in Afghanistan.

From the Jamestown Foundation: On June 22 Ukrainian Naval Headquarters confirmed unofficially that the country's political deadlock has doomed the multinational military exercise Sea Breeze-2009. According to the Ukrainian headquarters sources, the U.S. Armed Forces European Command (EUCOM) and the U.S. Sixth Fleet notified Ukraine's defense ministry on June 17 officially that foreign military units had to cancel their participation because the Ukrainian parliament failed to authorize the entry of such units on the national territory for Sea Breeze-2009 (UNIAN, Ukrayinska Pravda, June 22) . . .

Sea Breeze is a joint and combined naval, ground, and air exercise, U.S.-led and mainly U.S.-financed, lasting two weeks in July. It normally involves more than 2,000 military personnel from about fifteen NATO members and partner countries by invitation . . .

Although originating in the overall framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, Sea Breeze is not a NATO exercise. It is, rather, a joint Ukraine-U.S. exercise, to which other countries are invited to participate. Oblivious to such distinctions, local protesters and their handlers use the opportunity to demonize NATO.

From Heritage: Speaking at the same event, Dr. Liam Fox, the British Shadow Secretary of State for Defense, explained why the Treaties are in the interest of both nations. For the U.K., the treaties offer economies of procurement scale, i.e. the ability to buy in the larger U.S. market. For the U.S., the treaties offer the possibility of more exports, plus the more valuable benefit of cementing the U.S.-U.K. alliance and insuring interoperability with our most important ally.
More fundamentally, for the Conservative Party, Dr. Fox noted, shifting procurement from European to U.S. sources was a matter of strategic importance: more cooperation on defense procurement within the EU for Britain means a weaker Britain and a weaker NATO, because so few of the EU nations are willing to fight.
From Khaleej Times: (AFP) "We’re not attempting to undermine NATO or any other organisation active in the security field,” Lavrov said in a speech to a conference of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).
“Quite the contrary, we are favour of coordination and synergies between existing international structures to ensure that no single government (or) organisation in the Euro-Atlantic area works against each other...”

In The Collapse of the Baltic Tigers, Edward Lucas calls attention to the economic and geostrategic dynamics redefining the new frontier between Western Europe and Russia.

From Foreign Policy: Russia looms next door to the Baltic states as a contemptuous and even hostile neighbor that has played out repeated military exercises based on the scenario of reconquest. The three Baltic states are today members of nato but often feel they are on its margins: in the alliance on paper, but lacking the contingency planning and military presence that would bolster the security guarantee provided by Article V of the nato treaty. Russia’s increasingly angry rhetoric and ominous moves may seem like empty posturing from the safety of Brussels or Washington, but from a Baltic standpoint they are threatening—and all the more so for having thus far prompted no clear Western response.
It used to be Belgium that was counted as the "cockpit of Europe”—the place where great-power interests clashed and were settled. Now it is the Baltic states. At stake is not just nato’s credibility, but also that of the whole post-communist experiment: Is it possible for small countries on Russia’s borders to gain durable prosperity, security, and freedom, with their destiny determined by their own talents and virtues? Or will the ebb and flow of economic fortune ultimately prove that these small states are unsustainable as anything but satrapies for more powerful neighbors?
(graphic: Katherine Yester, Foreign Policy)
From Joint Forces Command HQ Brunssum: Why Afghanistan Matters
Are you now, or have you ever been to Afghanistan?
Think what we’re doing in Afghanistan is important? Tell us why!
Joint Forces Command HQ Brunssum is sponsoring a contest in which you will have the opportunity to share your experiences with the world - and possibly win a camcorder!
Tell us in 3 minutes or less “Why Afghanistan Matters” and you could be a winner! The contest is open to all military personnel currently serving, or who formerly served, in Afghanistan. In addition, the contest is open to civilian personnel working, or who have worked, alongside NATO or Coalition Forces. For questions on eligibility, contact us.
(via Abu Muqawama, through the Washington Independent)
From Taiwan News Online: (Associated Press) NATO allies Greece and Turkey have been at odds for years over airspace boundaries and flight procedures in the Aegean Sea that forms the border between them, and mock dogfights between fighter jets from each side are common.
But
[Greek Foreign Minister] Dora Bakoyannis told The Associated Press that Turkish military jets were flying over inhabited Greek islands.
"There is an increase in tension in the Aegean, which is evaluated very seriously by the Greek side," Bakoyannis said. "We have overflights _ not the usual overflights we had in the past, but overflights over inhabited islands _ which worries us greatly."
From RIA Novosti: We are going through the final stages of negotiations with Greece on the delivery of 1,000 BMP-3 vehicles. They [the Greeks] want to buy vehicles for both ground forces and naval infantry,' Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti.
The purchase would be one of the largest arms deals between Russia and a NATO member state. In the 1990s, Greece acquired over $1 billion worth of Russian weapons.

Le Figaro is reporting that France included its nuclear protection of the UAE as part of the agreements for the opening of its military base in Abu Dhabi last month. President Nicolas Sarkozy personally attended the formal opening of "Camp Peace" on May 26. The base attracted a great deal of world attention as France's first permanent military base in the Persian Gulf.

The establishment of the base included revising the defense agreements signed by France and the UAE in 1995. According to Le Figaro, the revisions include a secret clause which commits France to defend the UAE by all means necessary in case of attack. Le Figaro credits a diplomat who has seen the text of the secret agreement as the source for this report.

A member of mahjoob.com pointed out the diplomatic nuances involved in the wording of the secret agreement.

The word "nuclear" is not at all mentioned in the text, but the formula used usually means that nuclear weapons are not excluded.The diplomat says the formula used "is a very strong one". Much stronger than the one in the old accord of 1995, which "was rather vague" concerning an eventual French military intervention in case of attack against the UAE. Now the vagueness is removed, and a French riposte "is now almost automatic" in case of attack. Of course the decision on whether or not to use a nuclear riposte "is exclusively in the hands of French authorities". The base in Abu-Dhabi "is not nuclearised" — i.e., will not have any nuclear weapons, but that is not needed. This accord in effect means extending the French nuclear umbrella to the UAE."
Le Figaro reports that the new defense accord "does not offer the Emirates an unlimited nuclear guarantee," and that the wording in the secret clause is "more restricted" than France's commitments in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty to its NATO allies.

By declaring in the first line of the article that, "The containment (the encirclement) of Iran has begun," Le Figaro clearly sees this extension of French nuclear deterrence directed toward the nation just 150 miles north of its new base in the UAE. In fact, the leaking of this story to Le Figaro may be a clarification of what the Independent reported back during the opening of the base in May;

officials at the Elysée Palace concede that France is "deliberately putting itself into a position of dissuasion" against an Iranian attack on the Gulf states. "If Iran was to attack, (France) would now in effect also be under attack," an Elysée spokesman said.

This raises questions over the timing of this controversial revelation during a period when Iranian attention is focused on internal troubles. On the one hand, Teheran should be too busy with its domestic instability to be thinking of attacking any of its neighbors. On the other hand, Paris may have had some reason to deter the regime from considering the use of a foreign security crisis to gain public support and distract world attention from internal pacification. (photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)