What move will Moscow make to take advantage of the Biden Bugout of Afghanistan? We asked Russian expert Yuri Vanetik to brief us on the matter.
China and Russia have kept their embassies in Kabul open, under Taliban protection, and indicated they are ready to deal with the new regime https://t.co/4dBc08u2mj
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) August 25, 2021
Vanetik: Specifically, I believe that Moscow will amplify U.S. perceived failure in Afghanistan as Taliban takes over. Even though Russia still classifies Taliban as a terrorist group, it has already started negotiating with the new government leaders, and has it is apparent that the Taliban will be deliberate to establishing diplomatic ties with the Russian Federation. I believe that Taliban will reach out to Iran, China, and Russia to establish diplomatic ties and seek at least tacit recognition.
Russia did not evacuate its embassy like most others, and Russian embassador described his meetings with the terrorists as “constructive talks” after they took over the Kabul. The Soviet Union fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with its troops withdrawing in 1989. Since then, Moscow has made a comeback as an influential power broker in international talks on Afghanistan. It has worked continuously to cultivate ties with the Taliban, hosting their representatives for a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings.
“We have maintained contacts with the Taliban for the last seven years, discussing many issues,” Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said earlier this week. “We saw them as a force that will play a leading role in Afghanistan in the future even if it doesn’t take all power. All those factors, along with guarantees given to us by the Taliban’s top leaders, give us reason for a calm view of the latest developments, although we remain vigilant.”
A month before Taliban militants unleashed their offensive that ended with the seizure of Kabul, their delegation visited Moscow to offer assurances that they wouldn’t threaten the interests of Russia and its ex-Soviet allies in Central Asia — a sign that they consider ties with Russia a priority.
Taliban spokesman Mohammad Sohail Shaheen said during a visit last month to the Russian capital that “we won’t allow anyone to use the Afghan territory to attack Russia or neighboring countries,” noting that “we have very good relations with Russia.”
“Russian diplomats are doing all they can to consolidate the contacts they have established with the Taliban,” Moscow-based analyst Alexei Makarkin said in a commentary. Despite the Taliban’s assurances and friendly gestures from Russian embassy and Lavrov, Russia has held a series of joint war games with its allies in Central Asia in recent weeks to underline its pledge to help them fend off any possible security threats from Afghanistan. The latest of those drills began in Tajikistan this week.
Kabulov, the Kremlin envoy, emphasized that Moscow’s recognition of the Taliban will hinge on “whether they will govern the country in a responsible way in the near future, and proceeding from that, the Russian leadership will make the necessary conclusions.” He added that Russia would only take the Taliban off its list of terrorist organizations after the U.N. Security Council decides to remove it from its terror list. Russian diplomats argued that the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan helped change Afghan perceptions of the Soviet invasion and made many local leaders willing to accept Moscow’s mediation.
I believe Russia will highlight America’s failure in Kabul, and attempt to extrapolate its next foreign policy moves based on what happened in new Islamic State of Afghanistan. China is likely to do the same.