News / Europe

Russia Courts Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari (r) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev shake hands during their Kremlin meeting, May 12, 2011
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari (r) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev shake hands during their Kremlin meeting, May 12, 2011
James Brooke

With the death of Osama bin Laden, Russia is reaching out to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia in an effort to keep Islamic radicalism out of Russia’s southern flank.

Russia and Pakistan pledged Thursday to work together to fight terror as the Kremlin welcomed Pakistan’s president for his first major foreign visit after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was quoted telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, "Our countries are very close neighbors, we are located in the same region, and although we do not share borders, our hearts beat in unison.”

The blossoming Russia-Pakistan relationship comes on the heels of reports that Russia is negotiating to place 3,000 Russian border troops on Tajikstan’s border with Afghanistan.  At the same time, Russia has started upgrading ties with Afghanistan.

The moves indicate that Russia is scrambling to adjust to a post-Osama bin Laden world.  For much of the last decade, Russian officials enjoyed the luxury of criticizing the NATO presence in Afghanistan.

“The Soviet experience in Afghanistan was a failure.  It led to failure, and they were sure in Moscow that the same destiny is for Americans,” said Alexey Malashenko, Central Asia expert at Carnegie Moscow.

Now Russian officials worry they may soon get what they wished for.  Public pressure is growing in the United States to speed up troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

“For Russians, it is a real nightmare if Americans are leaving Afghanistan quickly,” said Andrei Kazantsev, a Central Asia security expert at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

In recent months, President Medvedev twice hosted Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Russia.  

“There is an acute fear that Afghanistan will not be stable after the American and other forces leave.  And that it will eventually collapse into some sort of near civil war.  There is of course some fear of the Taliban returning to power.  The Taliban do not see any difference between Russians and Americans.  For them, they are all enemies,” said Konstanin Von Eggert, a Russian world affairs analyst, who tracks the Kremlin’s turnaround.

Russia’s new activity in the region is high profile.

With Pakistan, Russia is signing new trade and aid agreements, including a plan to modernize a Soviet era steel plant in Pakistan. As the American killing of Osama bin Laden strains relations with the United States, Pakistan’s president is offering Russia a special relationship, saying in one interview,“Tsarist Russia was dreaming about getting access to the southern seas.”

With Tajikstan, Russia wants to bolster its border with Afghanistan, adding to a Russian-commanded motorized rifle division already stationed there.  Tim Epkenhans, a Central Asia expert, does not believe that Russia will take over border duties in Tajikstan. “Russians want to demonstrate who is the major power in the region,” he said

Russia’s fear is that an accelerated American withdrawal could bring the Taliban to the gates of Central Asia, an area that Russia wants to see free of Islamic radicalism.  Von Eggert says that the 10 million Central Asians who work in Russia could serve as a pipeline for extremist views to Russia’s Muslim minority. “The success of the Taliban will have a direct impact on Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and, possibly, Kyrgyzia,” he said.

Tajikstan and Uzbekistan are former Soviet republics that border Afghanistan.  There are large ethnic Uzbek and Tajik populations in northern Afghanistan.  During the 1990s, when the Taliban ruled Kabul, Russia armed Uzbek and Tajik warlords as a way to keep Islamic radicalism away from Russia’s historic sphere of influence.

If the central government in Kabul weakens again, Kazantsev says, Russia could revert to this "wall" strategy.“This situation of the late 90s, when Russia was left alone against the Taliban.  This can be repeated.  This is something like a nightmare for Russia,” he said.

Analysts here agree that Russia will avoid putting boots on the ground in Afghanistan.  Memories are raw of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s, an operation that left 15,000 Soviet soldiers dead and 50,000 wounded.

With Russia facing presidential and parliamentary elections over the next year, Kazantsev says chances are zero that Russia will offer to replace NATO troops in Afghanistan. “If Russia sends troops again into Afghanistan, it would be an electoral nightmare for Russian elite,” he said.

But Russian military training could resume.  Hekmat Karzai, cousin of the Afghan president, talked to VOA in Moscow this week. “A lot of our military were trained by the Soviet Union.  So that kind of training and that kind of capacity can be increased,” he said.

Karzai, who runs the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies, a think tank in Kabul, says relations between the presidents of Russia and Afghanistan are increasingly warm.

“There is a great relationship building between Afghanistan and Russia,” he said.

So, after 10 years of American-sponsored stability in Afghanistan, Russia may be joining a new great game for influence in this historic crossroads of Central Asia.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid