Nato-Russia Council

Questions and Answers on ISAF transit and Russia


What were the existing transit arrangements that NATO had with Russia on transit to and from Afghanistan?

In Spring 2008, NATO asked the Russian Federation to allow the land transit of non-military equipment for ISAF contributors across Russian territory to Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led, UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. At the Lisbon Summit in 2010, NRC leaders agreed amendments to the arrangements approved in 2008 allowing land transit of non-lethal cargo both to and from Afghanistan.

More than 60 thousand ISAF containers have been reliably transported by railway by Russian carriers to ISAF through Russian territory.

Russia also has the obligation to assist ISAF (composed of NATO and 22 other states) with transit requirements under United Nations Security Council Resolution which called upon UN member states to provide ISAF with "such necessary assistance as may be required, including providing overflight clearances and transit."

Moreover, in its capacity as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia supported the most recent UNSCR mandate given to ISAF's operation in resolution number 2011 in October 2011.

What are the new arrangements?

On 25 June 2012 the Russian Government adopted the Decree № 637 " Amending the Government of the Russian Federation Resolution № 219 of 28 March 2008 ", setting out a simplified procedure for the ground transit of freight through Russian territory to and from Afghanistan for the International Security Assistance Force Security Assistance Force (ISAF), extending the transit scheme to combine - rail, road and air transport.

The new arrangement was acknowledged by the exchange of a third set of transit letters on the 6 July 2012, by NRC Preparatory Committee Chairman and NATO Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Dirk Brengelmann and Acting Head of the Russian Mission to NATO Nikolai Korchunov. 

The Russian decree extends ISAF transit options to include multimodal transportation. This means that ISAF cargo can now be transported through Russia by rail, road and air depending on economic parameters and other specific conditions allowing multi-modal methods of delivery.

Following a preliminary study by the Russian authorities Ulyanovsk International Airport was designated as the primary point of embarkation and disembarkation for the goods, because of the proximity of air freight transport and international rail infrastructure.

Under these arrangements, the transportation of non-military ISAF supplies through Russian territory will be implemented by Russian transport companies. The cost is determined by market conditions; the Ministries of Defence of ISAF participating nations release tenders for contracts.

What laws ensure that the cargo will be subject to the correct control and checks?

The cargo will be transported in accordance with Russian Federation procedure and law, subject to the same checks and scrutiny as any other commercial cargo.

The Russian Government's decree establishes the option of combined transit under the conditions set out by the Customs Union custom legislation and the Russian Federation's law on customs. These legal frameworks require that cargo operations are done in the presence of customs officials.

Also, as part of international efforts to combat drug trafficking, the arrangements allow additional inspections in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation and its international obligations, of any goods to and from Afghanistan.

In its response letter, NATO reaffirmed its readiness to abide by the conditions of the Russian Federation for multi-modal transit.

What kind of cargo will be transported?

Only non lethal cargo will be transported using multi-modal commercial transit. 'Non lethal' means goods valid for international transport, with exceptions as defined in the Annex to Decision № 219  by the Government of the Russian Federation on the 28 March, 2008 (explosives, ammunition, and all weapons - the list can be found on the site:

There will be no NATO weapons, no NATO troops and no NATO base in Russia

The cargoes will be flown into Russia, transferred to the Russian rail network, and carried in and out of Afghanistan through Russia by commercial companies , to and from NATO countries.

Why is Afghanistan so important to cooperation in the NRC?

Working towards security and stability in Afghanistan is an important area of cooperation for the NRC, because we have a common interest in ensuring that Afghanistan is peaceful, stable and secure, and can never again become a haven for terrorists.

NATO and Russia cooperate on Afghanistan in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, cooperating through joint projects such as the NRC Counter Narcotics Training Project. Since 2006, the NRC has been assisting in building regional capacity against narcotics trafficking by training counter narcotics personnel from Afghanistan, Central Asian nations and Pakistan. Similarly there is the NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund, launched in 2011 to assist the Afghan Air Force by providing maintenance training for helicopter engineers and spare parts. NATO nations and Russia consult in the NRC sub group on Afghanistan about the situation there, working towards an action plan on more ways to cooperate on this key area of importance for all member states of the NATO Russia Council.