Unleash the Carpets of War
Having read Charlie Wilson’s War earlier this year, I watched with interest a headline this week in the NYT: Russia Pushes to Increase Afghanistan Business Ties.
Twenty years after the last Russian soldier walked out of Afghanistan, Moscow is gingerly pushing its way back into the country with business deals and diplomacy, and promises of closer ties to come.
Russia is eager to cooperate on economic matters in part by reviving Soviet-era public works, its president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, said Wednesday during a summit meeting with the leaders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, the second such four-way meeting organized by Russia in the past year.
In fact, Russia has already begun a broad push into Afghan deal-making, negotiating to refurbish more than 140 Soviet-era installations, like hydroelectric stations, bridges, wells and irrigation systems, in deals that could be worth more than $1 billion. A Russian helicopter company, Vertikal-T, has contracts with NATO and the Afghan government to fly Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters throughout the country.
The Kremlin is also looking to blunt Islamic extremism in Central Asia, which poses a threat to Russia’s security, particularly in the Caucasus, and to exploit opportunities in the promising Afghan mining and energy industries.
This speaks of two things: first, Russia carefully revisiting its previous interests; and second, the diplomatic warmth between the Unites States and Russia in the last year spreading to other endeavors. There is no way Russia would have touched Afghanistan with a long stick if some of the air hadn’t been cleared during Secretary Clinton’s work on START. However, there are clear economic benefits for Russia in Afghanistan, not the least of which is the infrastructure left in place after the Soviet-Afghan War of the 80’s. This, I say with caution, is a positive sign because Russian economic investment in Afghanistan can prove helpful to Afghanistan’s shuttered economy.
Either way, I bet Charlie Wilson is having a huge glass of bourbon in the underworld.And whichever member of the Taliban is charged with reading the newspaper is already cursing the Russian infidel.