Well, this is bad. This is a real, no-kidding move against U.S. and NATO interests, one that could significantly increase the peril to our forces in Afghanistan. It creates the potential for things to go south very quickly for NATO troops.
That, in turn, increases the likelihood of divisions within NATO over the alliance’s Afghanistan commitment. The divisions could well affect NATO’s posture on the political conflict with Russia. And assuming the Obama administration is passive and ineffective in the face of this latest move by Moscow, the alliance will find an existential crisis – at least the beginnings of one – inescapable.
The basic story is that the U.S. and NATO have relied throughout the Afghan operation on supply routes that run through both Pakistan and the former-Soviet republics of Central Asia. In 2008, the route called the Northern Distribution Network, or NDN, was consolidated, with a portion of it running through the territory of Russia. Russia has benefited from transit fees, along with the Central Asian ‘Stans, and has been content to hold in reserve the pocket veto she possesses by agreeing to let our supplies flow through her transportation network.
Now Putin is exercising his veto by terminating the Russian leg of the NDN, which comprises most of the so-called “northern line of communication” of the NDN, or the NLOC.