The United States and NATO have been exposed as waging a war that depended on the willingness of first Pakistan and now increasingly Russia to permit the movement of supplies through their respective territories. Were they both to suspend that privilege, the United States would face the choice of going to war to seize supply lines — something well beyond U.S. conventional capacity at this time — or to concede the war. Anytime a force depends on the cooperation of parties not under its control to sustain its force, it is in danger.
The issue is not whether the threats are carried out. The issue is whether the strategic interest the United States has in Afghanistan justifies the risk that the Russians may not be bluffing and the Pakistanis will become even less reliable in allowing passage. In the event of strategic necessity, such risks can be taken. But the lower the strategic necessity, the less risk is tolerable. This does not change the strategic reality in Afghanistan. It simply makes that reality much clearer and the threats to that reality more serious. Washington, of course, hopes the Pakistanis will reconsider and that the Russians are simply blowing off steam. Hope, however, is not a strategy.