Dmitri Litvinovich: Russians in Afghanistan

The activation of Moscow’s diplomatic effort vis-a-vis Afghanistan is in the focus of the Western media. The Financial Times asserts that world leaders are concerned with Moscow’s stance. In their view, Moscow is pursuing its own interests at the cost of stability in the entire region. Under discussion is Russia’s decision to send to Afghanistan 15 military planes carrying its Emergency Situation Ministry’s workers.

Christian Science Monitor has published an article containing comments on the situation in the world community in the wake of the latest development in Afghanistan. Moscow in conquering a new stronghold in Afghanistan, possibly hurrying to announce its presence before any specific results are reached at the negotiations in Bonn. Yet, in the light of the Russian troops’ experience, the newspaper calls “doubtful” Russia’s return to in Afghanistan.

The newspaper recalls that US Secretary of State Colin Powell has already asked the Russian authorities to restrain from unilateral moves. Still, after consultations with Moscow, he seems to have changed his mind. Speaking at a briefing recently held in Washington, Mr. Powell mentioned that the Russian contingent’s assignment consisted predominantly in rendering humanitarian aid; therefore, it cannot be even called “troops.” US Foreign Affairs chief also spoke positively of the Russian rescue team’s activity in Kabul.

It is a bit strange, however, why the media is so concerned with Russian rescuers’ presence on Afghanistan’s territory. At that, the presence of a 1,500-strong US contingent in Afghanistan has not become a matter of concern for the media. Russia’s role in the Afghan developments is so significant that it would be just silly to call it into question. Therefore, Russia can afford to take liberty for decision taking, at least, at this point, without anybody’s approval. Journalists seems to agree with that. But, when reflecting on Moscow’s activity is Afghanistan, the accent, for some reason, is being made on a material incentive. According to the Financial Times, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, Najmuddin Sheikh, accounts for the Russian side’s behaviour by the fact that Moscow allegedly benefits from maintaining tension in Afghanistan, the benefits being primarily economic. According to Mr. Sheikh, this is linked to Moscow’s being interested in Central Asian gas and oil export pipelines passing through Russia, not through Afghanistan. Officials at Russia’s Foreign Ministry deny these allegations. They assert (not without reason) that Moscow would love to see Afghanistan to be a country where peace and stability reign. Anyway, if Moscow had had no interests in Afghanistan, it would have been rightful to ask what, after all, have we been doing there?

Please do not contend that Washington has no interests in the region and that America’s only aim in Afghanistan is combating international terrorism. No one will believe it. The times of noble knights are long gone.

By the way, it is possible that today’s decision taken by the USA to suspend airlifts to Afghanistan of peacekeepers from other countries could be a kind of friendly gesture towards Russia. Meaning that neither America nor Russia need any other peacekeepers in this country. Dmitri Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru

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