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Monthly Archives: February 2009


Our scheduled guests on POW/MIA Radio for Sunday, March 1, 2009 are:

2:00-4:00pm Mountain time: Mr Sean Eagan, Chairman and Dr. Frank Tims, Ph.D., Historian and Legislative Director for the American Cold War Veterans. The American Cold War Veterans is incorporated in the State of Florida and founded on August 18, 2007 at The Truman Library in Independence, MO. They are dedicated to all veterans, with special dedication to those who served during the Cold War era, September, 1945 to December, 1991. From their mission statement: “Our Mission is to bring respect, recognition and awareness to Veterans of the Cold War era no matter what branch of service, whether active duty, reserve or National Guard. We are committed to honoring the sacrifices made by millions of American men and women during the Cold War, especially those who paid the ultimate price of life or liberty. We intend to see that the Cold War’s history is completely and accurately understood by people everywhere. We are united in these goals and speak with one voice.” Besides awareness for our Cold War Veterans and their sacrifices, they have been actively working to see that a Cold War Medal be issued to those who served during that period. Sean and Frank will discuss their group and their latest activities.

Please visit their website, for more information.

4:00pm Mtn – News and Views: An hour of the latest POW/MIA and veterans issues.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has re-introduced H. Res. 111. The resolution currently has 72 co-sponsors. We need to act again and contact our state representatives to sign on as co-sponsors. Please visit for additional information on how we can make this legislation successful.

Remember Jack and Wilma Laeufer at Lima Area MIA-POW have many items available for purchase in support of our veterans and missing Americans. Please contact them at 419-641-2340.

Thanks to our sponsors for this sponsorship period:

Korean War Ex-POWs Association
Chained Eagles of Ohio

Listen to POW/MIA Radio every Sunday on The American Freedom Network, . We also broadcast with 10,000 watts.on KHNC-AM, 1360khz, Johnstown, Colorado. If you are unable to get the show on the website, please re-enter the URL in your address line and try again.


Rod Utech

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!” Patrick Henry, 1775


President’s 2010 Budget Request Strongly Supports VA Programs

Funding Plan Improves Access, Modernizes Technology

WASHINGTON (Feb. 26, 2009) – President Obama’s first proposed budget forthe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expands eligibility for healthcare to an additional 500,000 deserving Veterans over the next fiveyears, meets the need for continued growth in programs for the combatVeterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and provides the resources to deliverquality health care for the Nation’s 5.5 million Veteran patients.The 2010 budget request is a significant step toward realizing a visionshared by the President and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.Shinseki to transform VA into an organization that is people-centric,results-driven and forward-looking.”Our success must encompass cost-effectiveness,” Shinseki said. “We arestewards of taxpayer dollars, and we will include appropriate metrics to accurately gauge the quality of our care and the effectiveness of our management processes.”If accepted by Congress, the President’s budget proposal would increaseVA’s budget from $97.7 billion this fiscal year to $112.8 billion forthe fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2009.  This is in addition to the $1.4billion provided for VA projects in the American Recovery andReinvestment Act of 2009.The 2010 budget represents the first step toward increasingdiscretionary funding for VA efforts by $25 billion over the next fiveyears.

 The gradual expansion in health care enrollment that this wouldsupport will open hospital and clinic doors to more than 500,000Veterans by 2013 who have been regrettably excluded from VA medical carebenefits since 2003.

 The 2010 budget request provides the resources toachieve this level of service while maintaining high quality and timelycare for lower-income and service-disabled Veterans who currently rely

Dover Ban Should Be Lifted

I do not like the idea of our goverment hiding the human cost of the GWOT. This is a email that came in from . I invite your comments. Should the ban be lifted? Personally I think so. Chime in below what do you think.

Dear Supporter,

We’re hearing that the Pentagon is close to making a recommendation to the President on whether to lift the ban on photos of caskets of our returning war dead at Dover Air Force Base and other ports of entry. There is very good reason for the Pentagon to lift the ban, and we want to ensure that they do.

The ban is not something that’s been around forever. In fact, it’s a pretty recent policy, instituted for purely political reasons, with waivers given, also for purely political reasons. The ban was instituted just before the first Gulf War, by the first President Bush, worried that images of the dead coming home could affect support for the war, just as they had during Vietnam. But, George W. Bush allowed images of a victim of the Pentagon 9/11 attacks to be shown, to stir up anger (as if we needed any more reason).

More importantly, those of us who served swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Part of that Constitution is freedom of the press, to promote the ability of the public to have as much information as possible — even when that information is not comfortable for those decision-makers in power.

And finally, this is about being able to honor the fallen. The return ceremony is incredibly respectful, and deeply honorable. We should be allowing all Americans to share in honoring the fallen, not hiding it.


Honoring Veterans

FOREST CITY, IA – The Forest City American Legion is working with other military organizations to plan an honor flight.

  They’re flying one hundred World War II vets from North Iowa and Southern Minnesota to Washington D.C. on April 18th. 

The trip just lasts one day, but the group will have the chance to tour most of the Capitol.  Plus they’ll spend two full hours at the World War II Memorial.  It’s a tightly packed schedule, but Vietnam Vet Bill Clark explained it’s nothing compared to what they’ve been through. Clark told KIMT News 3, “this is a piece of cake, this is a walk in the park for these guys.  I talked to a guy that’s 94 years old and one of the questions on the application is, can you walk 100 yards?  He says, if you let me rest a little bit.  They’re fired up to go.” Donations and other sponsorships are allowing the World War II vets to travel free of charge.

  If you’d like to help, the organizers are asking you send checks payable to “Honor Flight Winnebago” to HFW, 216 S. 4th Street, Forest City, IA 50436. 

Sean Eagan and Dr. Frank Tims of will be on POW-MIA Radio Hosted by Rod Utech Sunday March 1st to discus the Cold War.


POW/MIA Radio is broadcast by the American Freedom Network

Sean and Frank and Rod will discuss Cold War veteran issues and the 14 Cold War incidents that DOD lists 126 men as missing from to this day.

( Its flagship station is KHNC 1360AM out of Johnstown, CO. You can also catch their broadcast on Satellite: G-9 Channel 2, Sub-Audio 7.76, Horizontal Polarity.

Wounded Warrior Project
event to raise funds and awareness for our nation’s injured service members event will be held at The Pearl Room 8203 3rd Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11209 on Monday February 23, 2009 from 7:00PM – 10:00PM with our host and WWP Supporter Actor Tony Sirico AKA Pauli Walnuts of the Sopranos

January 5, 2009

Dear Friends:

On behalf of Wounded Warrior Project, we’d like to ask for your support as we participate in The Pearl Room / Wounded Warrior Project event to raise funds and awareness for our nation’s injured service members. The event will be held at The Pearl Room 8203 3rd Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11209 on Monday February 23, 2009 from 7:00PM – 10:00PM with our host and WWP Supporter Actor Tony Sirico AKA Pauli Walnuts of the Sopranos and our sponsorship goal is to raise as much funds as possible to assist the needs of Our Great American Heroes.

Over 30,000 troops have been wounded in recent conflicts, many of them suffering traumatic brain injuries, amputations, and severe burns. The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) provides programs and services that ease the burdens of the wounded and their families, aid in the recovery process, and smooth the transition back to civilian life.

We have committed to the Wounded Warrior Project and the young men and women that benefit from WWP’s programs and services. These service men and women give life and limb to protect our freedom, and together, you and I can recognize their sacrifices.

We are asking for a donation of $100 to change the life of a Wounded Warrior, with this comes a t-shirt and other giveaways upon your admission to The Pearl Room on February 23rd for this event. Also, food and drinks will be provided by The Pearl Room as part of your donation. Sponsors are strongly encouraged with a minimum of $250 to have your name on the back of the t-shirt, which will be given to all who attend and a banner that will be prominently displayed that night. Please contact Chris or Nancy at The Pearl Room for sponsor info at 718.833.6666, deadline for this is February 13, 2009.

In exchange for your generosity and check made payable to The Pearl Room/WWP Event, you will receive a tax-deductible acknowledgment from WWP. Please contact the below for info reservations and how you can Support and Honor Heroes of this Great Country.

The Pearl Room
Attn: Chris, Tony or Nancy
8203 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209

Please visit the Wounded Warrior Project at to find out more about this extraordinary organization and the outstanding contributions and difference it has in the lives of the young men and women that continue to protect our freedom. The Wounded Warrior Project is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, Federal Tax I.D. #20-2370934.

Thank you for your support!


Nancy Venturine
Chris Paulsen
Tony Scialdone

Slide Show

On any given day, a dozen or so men clad in field caps and navy-blue jackets and bearing World War II-era M1 Garand rifles may be called up to serve.

They’re not acting as military history re-enactors or part of some new Homeland Security defense force, but rather, they are U.S. armed forces veterans performing military rites at the funeral of a veteran.

George Van De Water of Orem is a former commander of Orem’s American Legion Post 72, which has just more than 100 dues-paying members. He served aboard the Navy battleship Iowa off the coast of Korea during the Korean War as part of a Marine contingent.

The post’s members are mostly veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, with very few living World War II servicemen left. Van De Water said one of their solemn duties is performing military rites, which include a legion chaplain, a flag presentation to the veteran’s next of kin, three rifle volleys fired off by an honor guard of typically seven men, and a bugler playing “Taps.”

The military funeral honors are provided to any honorably discharged U.S. military veteran at the request of his or her family. There is no charge, and the Orem post covers such requests for most of northern Utah County.

“There is no cost,” Van De Water said. “This is something we do because we feel each of these veterans deserves to be recognized.”

Norm Rohr, a member of the Orem-based American Legion post, currently serves as the chapter’s post adjutant. He served during the Korean War aboard the Navy aircraft carrier USS Princeton as part of a five-man crew assigned to a F6F Hellcat fighter plane.

One of Rohr’s many responsibilities with the Legion is to coordinate the assignments of requested military funeral honors. He said the Orem post performed military rites at 86 veterans’ funerals last year, and 94 the year before that. Though he’s only been in the Legion for five years, he believes the number of veterans funerals they’ve participated in is steadily on the increase.

“We average two per week,” Rohr said. “Our veterans are dying left and right.”

On Tuesday, Rohr and a compliment of Legion members stood in the snow at the Orem City Cemetery as part of an honor guard at the funeral of Korean War veteran Wayne Vance Gygi. Though it requires the dedication of the 30 members who routinely participate in the honor guards from week to week, every Legion member considers the service a form of solemn duty of brotherhood, Van De Water and Rohr said.

“We look at it as an honor,” Rohr said. “These guys are veterans and they deserve the best.”

And though the Legion keeps busy with many other activities including sponsoring local high-school students at Boys and Girls State through a speech contest, giving patriotic presentations at Orem schools, and placing crosses on veterans’ graves on Memorial Day, they know what it means to veterans’ families to extend the graveside services.

“It always happens. Part of the family and friends of the veteran will come up to several of us afterward and thank us, say how impressed they were, say how grateful they are,” Rohr said. “That makes it worthwhile right there as far as I’m concerned.”

Van De Water, who spent a combined 24 years in the Marines and the Army, agrees.

“As many times as I’ve done that I still feel tears when ‘Taps’ is played,” he said.

“People often mention we’re heroes when we perform an honor guard at funerals. My sense is, the heroes are the ones who didn’t come back, and we honor them by honoring these fallen heroes,” Van De Water said.

Veterans Affairs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act CNN rated Veterans Affairs as one of the losers in this stimulus package

The following Joe Bello of NY Metrovets put together regarding Veterans Affairs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was approved by Congress and signed by President Obama yesterday. I note that CNN rated Veterans Affairs as one of the losers in this stimulus package as nearly all items for Veterans Affairs were reduced and the $2 billion the U.S. Senate wanted for VA Construction was wiped out altogether. Even Rep. Filner stated in a press release: “I am disappointed that we could not provide more of an investment in this bill and I will continue to work to draw attention to the growing and unmet needs of our veterans.” Also, please note that I have put nothing in here regarding the Filipino Veterans provisions. If I missed anything, I am truly sorry – it was a BIG document and I did this myself. Please pass on to others…Joe.

The breakdown is as follows:

Job creation. The conferees note that the Associated General Contractors of America estimates that each $1,000,000,000 in non-residential construction spending* will create or sustain 28,500 jobs. Based on this estimate and data provided by the. Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the conferees estimate that the construction funds and other programs in this will create or sustain 97,200 jobs.

MEDICAL FACILITIES – $1,000,000,000*
For an additional amount for “Medical Facilities” for non-recurring maintenance, including energy projects, $1,000,000,000 to remain available until September 30, 2010: Provided, that not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress an expenditure plan for funds provided under this heading. (Joe’s Note: The VA has identified a $5 billion backlog in needed repairs, including energy efficiency projects, at its 153 medical facilities. The $1 billion is for medical facilities renovation and retooling.)
For an additional amount for “National Cemetery Administration” for monument and memorial repairs, including energy projects, $50,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010: Provided, that not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress an expenditure plan for funds provided under this heading.
For an additional amount for “General Operating Expenses”, $150,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010, for additional expenses related to the hiring and training of temporary surge claims processors.
For an additional amount for “Information Technology Systems”, $50,000,000, to remain, available until September 30, 2010, for the Veterans Benefits Administration, Provided, that not later than 30 days after the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations both houses of Congress an expenditure plan for funds’ provided under this heading.
For an additional amount for “Office of Inspector General”, $1,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2011, for oversight and audit of programs, grants and projects funded under this title.
For an additional amount for “Grants for Construction of State Extended Care Facilities”, $150,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010, for grants to assist States to acquire or construct State nursing home and domiciliary facilities and to remodel, modify, or alter existing hospital, nursing home, and domiciliary facilities in State homes, for furnishing care to veterans as authorized by sections 8131 through 8137 of title 38, United 7 States Code.
Any unemployed veteran who begins work for the employer during 2009 or 2010 shall be treated as a member of a targeted group.
An unemployed veteran is defined as an individual certified by the designated local agency as someone who: (1) has served on active duty (other than for training) in the Armed Forces for more than 180 days or who has been discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces for a service-connected disability; (2) has been discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces during the five-year period ending on the hiring date; and (3) has received unemployment compensation under State or Federal law for not less than four weeks during the one-year period ending on the hiring date.
The work opportunity tax credit is available on an elective basis for employers hiring individuals from one or more of nine targeted groups. The amount of the credit available to an employer is determined by the amount of qualified wages paid by the employer. Generally, qualified wages consist of wages attributable to service rendered by a member of a targeted group during the one-year period beginning with the day the individual begins work for the employer (two years in the case of an individual in the long-term family assistance recipient category).
Targeted groups eligible for the credit
Generally an employer is eligible for the credit only for qualified wages paid to members of a targeted group.
(1) Families receiving TANF
(2) Qualified veteran
There are two subcategories of qualified veterans related to eligibility for Food stamps and compensation for a service-connected disability.
Food stamps
A qualified veteran is a veteran who is certified by the designated local agency as a member of a family receiving assistance under a food stamp program under the Food Stamp Act of 1977 for a period of at least three months part of which is during the 12-month period ending on the hiring date. For these purposes, members of a family are defined to include only those individuals taken into account for purposes of determining eligibility for a food stamp program under the Food Stamp Act of 1977.
Entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability
A qualified veteran also includes an individual who is certified as entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability and: (1) having a hiring date which is not more than one year after having been discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States; or (2) having been unemployed for six months or more (whether or not consecutive) during the one-year period ending on the date of hiring.
EFFECTIVE DATE: The amendments made by this section shall apply to individuals who begin work for the employer after December 31, 2008. (Joe’s Note: As many have stated, the basic problem with this part is that in order for an employer to receive the work opportunity tax credit, the Veteran will have to be on unemployment benefits for four weeks. Personally, I do believe that this is fair to the veteran. I am also not crazy about the part for service connected disability.)
(Joe’s Note: This section will provide $14 billion for one-time $250 payments to all Social Security recipients, as well as poor people on Supplemental Security Income, and veterans who receive disability payments and pensions. There will be NO double payments.)
Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to disburse a onetime Economic Recovery Payment of $250 to adults who were eligible for Social Security benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, or veteran’s compensation or pension benefits; or individuals who were eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits (excluding individuals who receive SSI while in a Medicaid institution) . Only individuals who were eligible for one of the four programs for any of the three months prior to the month of enactment shall receive an Economic Recovery Payment.
The Secretary of the Treasury shall commence disbursing payments under this section at the earliest practicable date but in no event later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act. The Secretary of the Treasury may disburse any payment electronically to an individual in such manner as if such payment was a benefit payment or cash benefit to such individual.
No payments shall be disbursed under this section after December 31, 2010, regardless of any determinations of entitlement to, or eligibility for, such payments made after such date.
The Commissioner of Social Security, the Railroad Retirement Board, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall certify the individuals entitled to receive payments under this section and provide the Secretary of the Treasury with the information needed to disburse such payments. A certification of an individual shall be unaffected by any subsequent termination or redetermination of the individual’s entitlement to, or eligibility for, a benefit specified in subparagraph (B) or (C) of subsection (a)(l).
The VA will receive $100,000 for the Information Systems Technology account and $7,100,000 for the General Operating Expenses account for administrative costs incurred in carrying out this section.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pensions account shall hereinafter be available for payments authorized under subsection (a)(1)(A) to individuals entitled to a benefit payment described in subsection (a)(1)(B)(iii) .

Clyde Lewis, VFW Commander-in-Chief, 1949-1950 died Feb. 4, 2009, at Plattsburgh, N.Y

Lewis, an attorney, was the first World War II veteran to attain the highest office in a major U.S. veterans organization. He was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Golden Jubilee Convention in Miami, Florida in 1949.

He became active in the VFW immediately after separation from service when he joined Post 125 in Plattsburgh in September 1945. He held important elective and appointive offices in the Post, County Council and Department of New York. He was elected Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief in 1947 and Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief in 1948. He was a member of the National Legislative Committee, 1946-47, and since that time has served on many national committees. For more than 35 years he has served as chairman/vice chairman of the VFW Employee’s Retirement Board.

Lewis enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a private in April 1942, was appointed an aviation cadet, commissioned and received his wings as a pilot in March 1943. He spent 21 months overseas. He was successively a Flight Commander, Squadron Operations Officer and Squadron Commander of the 401st Bombardment Group, 8AF. He completed one tour of duty and volunteered for and had almost completed his second tour by V-E Day. After his first 15 missions as a flight commander he flew as a Group or Wing leader. He was promoted to major in January 1945, and separated from service the following September.

His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the French Croix de Guerre, the Air Medal with four clusters, Distinguished Unit Citation with one cluster and the European-African-Middle East campaign ribbon with six battle stars.

Lewis was born in Hoquiam, Washington On June 20, 1913. He graduated from South Ben (Washington) High School in 1929 and from the University of Notre Dame, where he received his BA in 1934. He entered Harvard Law School and received the degree of Juris Doctor in 1939. He was the senior member of the law firm of Lewis, Rogers, Kudrle and Meconi, P.C. in Plattsburgh. He retired from the practice on December 31, 2001.

He is a member of the Capitol Hill Club, Elks, Knights of Columbus and Clinton County, New York State and American Bar Associations. In January 1970, he was invested a Knight of Malta.

From 1952 to 1995, he served as chairman of Plattsburgh Air Base Liaison Committee. He was the honorary wing commander of the 380th Bombardment Wing (SAC)/Air Mobility Wing (AMC) assigned to Plattsburgh AFB. The wing was deactivated and the base closed in 1995.

In 1985, the United States Air Force presented him its highest civilian award, the Exceptional Service Award. His biography appears in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.

Lewis was married to the former Helen M. Judge of Plattsburgh, New York, who died in 1985 after 49 years of marriage. He has two sons, Rev. Clyde A. and John E. He married Patricia Davis Judge on October 1, 1988.

CSTO is Bringing Central Asia Back Into Russian Sphere of Influence

By Roger McDermott

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Moscow on February 3, followed the next day by the meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEc) was overshadowed by Kyrgyzstan’s President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announcing the closure of the US Manas air base in Bishkek.

However, Moscow’s increasingly assertive foreign policy within the former Soviet Union, including reasserting Russia’s security credentials in the South Caucasus and Central Asia and what many regard as playing a role in the Kyrgyz decision to close the American base, was also apparent in declaring the formation of a

“new” CSTO rapid reaction force, which Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev claimed will not be less capable than its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) counterpart.

The new military structure is designed to play a regional role as a “last resort” while it will not aspire to become a counterweight to NATO. Arguably this initiative, combined with elaborating new regional air defense ambitions, is calculated to restrict NATO’s influence in the South Caucasus and Central Asia promoting Russia’s interests as Moscow conducts a “virtual cold war”.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigoriy Karasin, clarified aspects of the new CSTO force on February 12.

“In peaceful conditions they will remain in their places of permanent stationing. In the event that a threat of aggression emerges in respect of CSTO states, as well as in order to quickly react to crisis situations, they would be redeployed in the direction of the threat on the basis of a decision by the Collective Security Council of the CSTO,” Karasin said.

This would require presidential approval in each member state, acting only on the basis of consensus.

The CSTO rapid reaction forces
The structure which has existed on paper for several years will now be activated using national military sub-units, interior ministry special forces, other security agencies and units from emergency ministries. Russia will, of course, be the lead provider of military personnel to the CSTO rapid reaction capabilities, availing a division to its overall composition. The Central Asian members of the CSTO (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) will also contribute forces to the CSTO rapid reaction forces.

The pattern of CSTO military exercises indicates these will be mostly tasked with playing supporting roles, drawn from mobile formations and specialist units. In the case of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan their numerical input will be purely of token value.

Uzbekistan will earmark forces for participation in exercises and operations, but has no plans to locate formations in a permanent headquarters, should one emerge in the future. Moreover, Tashkent negotiated a special clause allowing a case-by-case assessment as to whether it would participate and is more reluctant than the other Central Asian CSTO members to become involved in non-military operations such as emergency tasks or responding to a natural disaster.

This is counterbalanced by the critical role within the region that Kazakhstan has chosen to play in developing and contributing to these forces. Astana will attach an airborne assault brigade to the CSTO collective rapid reaction force, drawn from its airmobile forces headquartered in Kapchagai.

Kazakhstan: Russia’s gateway to Central Asia
It is from within these structures that Kazakhstan has developed its peacekeeping capabilities with US and NATO assistance, initially as a battalion (KAZBAT) and with additional cooperation from the Alliance this has been transformed into a brigade (KAZBRIG).

Both NATO and Russia have potentially conflicting interests in these structures. Moscow, in alliance with Astana through the CSTO, holds sway since Kazakhstan has legal obligations to prefer CSTO commitments, in contrast to its “partner” status with NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.

Kazakhstan Defense Minister Daniyal Akhmetov asserted that this brigade is ready for the duties assigned to it under the CSTO, which puzzled many observers. “The Kazakh airborne assault brigade attached to the CRRF is ready for combat. It is equipped with advanced armaments and military hardware, as well as capable of fulfilling its mission. The Kazakh brigade will be a worthy component of the CRRF,” Akhmetov said in Astana on February 12.

The other brigades in Kazakhstan’s airmobile forces are equipped with Russian made weapons and equipment and their combat capability is not as high as its Western-trained KAZBRIG. If Akhmetov referred to the latter, it represents a serious blow to NATO objectives with Kazakhstan’s armed forces, preparing an interoperable brigade for possible future deployment on international peace support operations: if the brigade belongs to one of the other airmobile structures, it will further limit Kazakhstan’s NATO partnership action program goals. In a worst case scenario, NATO training for KAZBRIG may mostly benefit the CSTO.

Air Defense: Squeezing Western influence
Colonel-General Alexander Zelin, commander in chief of Russia’s Air Force, said on February 10 that Russia and its allies are currently building regional air defenses in three directions: East Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia. Draft agreements, based on the unified air defense system between Belarus and Russia are now being prepared for other CIS members.

A unified CIS air defense system was first agreed on February 10, 1996, consisting of seven air defense brigades and 46 missile air defense units armed with S-125 S-75, S-200 and S-300 systems of various modifications, as well as 23 aviation units equipped with MiG-29, MiG-31 and Su-27 aircraft, 22 formations of radio technical troops and two electronic warfare units.

During the past 13 years, progress on integrating air defense within the CIS has been sporadic and often lacking genuine political will to implement such grand schemes amongst Russia’s neighbors; Georgia exited early and Ukraine has proven ambivalent. Belarus proved one notable exception both preserving and strengthening its existing air defense capabilities and closely cooperating with Russia.

Russia has agreed on joint air defense combat duty with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. General Zelin especially singled Russia’s close ally in Central Asia, Kazakhstan, which has initiated the modernization and expansion of its air defense systems with Moscow’s assistance and political support.

In order to realize these plans, efforts are underway to design “Zaslon”, an automatization complex for command posts and the headquarters of the unified CIS air defense, in the context of bilateral programs. Moscow is considering supplying this system to Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Zelin stated that Russia’s air force will be involved in any operation to defend a CIS member state; de facto asserting Russia’s security suzerainty over the South Caucasus and Central Asia in particular.

On February 13 Nikolay Bordyuzha, secretary general of the CSTO, announced that Russia will set up a joint air defense system with Armenia. Bordyuzha portrayed this as advancing Russia’s security interests in the region in which unified rules will be developed for exchanging air defense information, and as a step towards the future goal of achieving a common air defense system covering Belarus, Central Asia and the South Caucasus.

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio on February 13, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitriy Rogozin, expanded on Moscow’s plans for extending air defense capabilities beyond its borders offering protection from an “aggressor” or in cases of aircraft hijacked by terrorists. He suggested individual state air defenses were inadequate, and if a state is under threat of air attack it is best to intercept targets some distance from its own borders. Ragozin seemed to consider the issue in terms protecting Russian airspace.

Armenia and Kazakhstan as Russia’s air defense partners
Developing these systems in Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan enables Moscow to receive information relating to the air space within their three respective strategic regions, while providing a need for the training of personnel from these countries within Russia in the use of integrated systems, communications and information systems, command and control and carrying out strikes.

It also serves as a deterrent to those states that may contemplate using military force and reasserts Russia’s position as regional security guarantor. Reservations about air defense initiatives and the new CSTO rapid reaction forces have already been expressed in Baku.

Kazakhstan has Russian S-300 air defense systems protecting Astana and Almaty. Nevertheless, Akhmetov confirmed on February 12 that the Kazakhstani Ministry of Defense expects additional S-300 systems soon. Astana has also been trying to procure S-400 systems from Russia.

Akhmetov told foreign defense attaches accredited in Astana that that the country will receive “a significant number of the S-300 units”, though he was less clear about what is necessitating the sudden emphasis on air defense. He said air defense systems would make it possible “to significantly reinforce Kazakhstan’s air defense system, as well as to step up the country’s integration into the CSTO”. In this sense he sees their value as more political than military, signaling Astana’s determination to prioritize the CSTO.

Indeed, the political-military justification only makes sense when questions are raised about the threat Kazakhstan is protecting itself from, and what it considers most vulnerable: the answer lies in its drive to adequately protect its energy infrastructure from potential attack from the air. This is crucial, since NATO has been exploring offering energy security capabilities to Kazakhstan: Russia has now effectively closed this door, with Astana’s approval.

Akhmetov has talked up Kazakhstan’s military cooperation with NATO and its members, as well as maintaining close defense relations with Russia both bilaterally and through the CSTO. Recently he has become more confident about Kazakhstan’s defense ties with Russia, which are set to deepen further.

In 2009 both countries will hold large-scale joint military exercises. Commenting on the CSTO, Akhmetov said it was “above all about Russia”, as they plan to hold different types of military exercises in terms of the quantity and quality of troops and equipment involved.

“Virtual cooperation” gives way to “virtual cold war”
While conducting vigorous international diplomacy to boost Moscow’s cooperative posture with the West, Russia is actively pursuing policies which either thwart NATO objectives or policies, or alternatively make future engagement in these regions more difficult without Moscow’s consent.

In this sense, Russia is currently engaging in a “virtual cold war”, one that is not as costly as a real cold war, allowing it to minimize Western influence in regions regarded as a “sphere of influence” while allowing the presentation of the “user friendly” and potentially cooperative stance with the West.