Russia criticises NATO on Afghanistan
By Tim Foxley
There is some painfully obvious irony in this (“Russia slams NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan”):
BRUSSELS — Russia’s foreign minister sharply criticized NATO’s plan to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014, saying Thursday that coalition troops should remain in the country until Afghan government forces are capable of ensuring security.
“As long as Afghanistan is not able to ensure by itself the security in the country, the artificial timelines of withdrawal are not correct and they should not be set,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
It seems that Russia has wanted this particular “internationalist” intervention in Afghanistan all its own way. Russia has continued to be critical of the ISAF military presence, but Russia is earning millions of dollars from ISAF for allowing non-military supplies to transverse its border (the Northern Distribution Network) and might now be contemplating the loss of this easy money-maker. Although a surge in traffic – as NATO people and equipment is pulled out – will probably mean a significant boost to Russian government coffers over the next couple of years, keeping more ISAF forces in the country longer clearly keeps this money rolling in.
Russia is very concerned about Islamic insurgency and narco-trafficking in this part of the world. But while very ready to criticise ISAF for failing in its efforts to tackle the insurgency and the narcotics trafficking to Russia’s satisfaction, Russia has been more than happy for a non-Russian military force to be on its southern border spending time, money, effort and blood in taking the job on. When ISAF leaves, Russia may have to spend time and effort of its own.
In 1989, the whole world (including the entire population of Afghanistan) wanted the Soviets out of Afghanistan. This aside, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comment is a charge that could have easily been levelled at the Soviet Union in 1989, given that the country fell apart two years after the 40th Army’s departure – creating the conditions that led to the 2001 US-led Coalition intervention. By Lavrov’s argument, the Russians really ought to be sending 40th Army back into Afghanistan until they have fixed it…