Friday, 7 May 2010

Afghanistan - the view from Moscow

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has produced an interesting report setting out how Afghanistan is perceived in Moscow. Afghanistan: A view from Moscow, written by Dmitri Trenin and Alexei Malashenko (both of whom work for Carnegie's Moscow Center), notes that "Russia is entwined in a complex web of relationships with the Afghan parties, neighbouring states and the West."
The Soviet Union lost 14,300 soldiers in Afghanistan and the war remains deeply traumatic within Russian society. It invaded Afghanistan when it was at the height of its power and left as a broken and mangled empire, on the brink of collapse.
While initially there appears to have been an element of schadenfreude in the Kremlin as they witnessed America and its allies being drawn into a more and more complex war, that feeling has since given way to one of concern about the implications of Western forces being defeated.
Russia knows very well that the situation in Central Asia is potentially dangerous. Already there are or have been insurrections in Chechnya, Daghestan, Tajikistan and parts of Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan is also unstable.
The authors are critical of US plans to disengage from Afghanistan by the end of Barack Obama's term of office, saying that 'cutting and running' is not a good option. They argue that "Military operations need to mellow the Taliban just enough to separate and isolate the hard-line jihadists - to be further pursued and destroyed - from those whose interests are focused on power distribution within Afghanistan". They add:
"The main effort in Afghanistan should be trying to bring the Afghan government and the opposition together to discuss the terms of a new national settlement."
They add that the US should increase its relations with non-NATO partners, such as Pakistan, China and even Iran.

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