OpinionSociety

Afghan Key to the East

Kremlin Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov craved for U.S. troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. Two years ago, he stressed that “the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution.

The only possible way to settle it is to achieve peace through political and diplomatic means. We support the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.” Finally, his dreams came true. But will the withdrawal of the U.S. military contingent from Afghanistan benefit the Kremlin? Obviously not.

NATO has almost withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan. Now, the Americans are leaving. Chaos reigned in the country. The power was seized by the Taliban, now banned in Russia, though Lavrov recently shook hands with its representatives at a diplomatic reception. A hotbed of tension is being formed just a stone’s throw from Russia, posing a threat to peace and tranquility of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Fighting takes place in the north of the country, on the border with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, certainly raising concerns in Dushanbe, Tashkent, and Ashgabat.

Just a while ago, Lavrov upheld the polycentric world, saying that “the collective, historical West, which has dominated everyone for 500 years, cannot help but realise that the epoch is irreversibly passing, although it strives to retain fleeting positions, to artificially slow down the objective process of polycentric world formation.” For Afghanistan, the process of “polycentric world formation” has begun. Resembling the day of doom… The Russian consulate in Mazār-i-Sharīf suspends its operation due to the armed offensive of those whom Lavrov shook hands with in Moscow. Hundreds of Afghan soldiers are fleeing to Tajikistan, Vladimir Putin called Emomali Rahmon, and an issue of providing assistance to Tajikistan both under the Collective Security Treaty Organization and bilateral agreements is raised.

Russia will be forced to “fill the void” after the withdrawal of NATO countries from Afghanistan, which restrained the Islamist threat to Russia’s interests in the region for almost 20 years. Does Russia have the resources for Afghanistan? Aren’t they already spent in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, Syria, Libya, and the Central African Republic? Russia will have to tighten its belts again, because if Russia does not “protect” Tajikistan and other former USSR republics, Ankara will gladly help them.

Turkey is ready to deepen cooperation with Tajikistan in defence, security, and military industry, as well as to share experience in border security and counter-terrorism, Hulusi Akar said in Dushanbe. Similar issues were discussed in Bishkek.

“Given the unstable situation in the region and growing threats, especially due to the complicating situation in Afghanistan, military-technical cooperation is relevant and timely,” said President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov during the talks with Akar. He expressed readiness for further development and expansion of cooperation in the interests of peace and stability in both countries and the region as a whole.

In addition, Ankara promises to take lead on the education and training of Kyrgyz military specialists. However, Turkey trains military of all Central Asian countries and increases quotas for them. Earlier, the Turkish minister visited Nūr-Sūltan and Tashkent.

For this help, Ankara asks a bit – to recognise FETO as a terrorist organisation (the same way as the Turkish authorities call the organisation of the Islamic opposition public figure Fethullah Gülen and his movement Hizmet that tried to stage a coup in 2016), and to extradite their supporters hiding in other territories to Turkey. As for Kyrgyzstan, this issue is likely to be closed after Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov in Ankara.

Turkmenistan remains the only country in the region unaffected by Turkish influence. However, in the autumn it will join the International Organisation of Turkic Culture, TURKSOY. Turkmenistan is ready to join the organisation if it receives a special status, which is not provided for by the statute of this body. However, this issue will definitely be resolved.

It is interesting that Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan have been unanimously lobbying for Turkmenistan’s accession to TURKSOY. Russian proposals of this kind have not been met with special enthusiasm. The division of the post-Soviet space into new geopolitical realities continues with increasing intensity and considerable results in favour of Ankara. Russian integration projects prevail only in words. Turkey, with its strategy of building an empire, will fill the vacuum that arises in the region. It seems that dreams of a pro-Kremlin Central Asia will remain the dreams of the “bunker leader” and his entourage.

Yuri Fedorenko, Head of NGO “Agency for Development of Democracy and Information Freedoms”

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