As Ambassador to NATO, it is Dmitry Rogozin’s assignment to be a bit rude, funny, and to make trouble – hence the regular personal insults his Twitter feed toward Anders Fogh Rasmussen as though the two were in high school. But I still can’t quite get the objective behind his latest article in the New York Times, authored along with Boris Gromov, a former commander of the Soviet armed forces.
It has definitely become a hot topic to talk about Afghanistan asbeing “Obama’s Vietnam,” and many others who like to parallel thedoomed war to Russia’s experience in the country. So in this article, first Rogozin wants to insult his favorite targets (the “selfishness of peace-loving Europeans”), then he wants to suggest that NATO should be shattered by this conflict (“unionsthat become meaningless”), then he appears to want the coalition tofail (the brand new CSTO forces, despite lacking the participation ofmany countries, are ready to step in after just one trainingexercise?). Wait, wait, he doesn’t actually want them to fail – infact, it is Russia’s position that NATO and its European allies stay inAfghanistan for the long haul until a stable political regime isestablished. That’s why they allegedly have facilitated supply routes,he writes, though this isn’t quite true – they bribed the dictator inBishkek with $2 billion to remove a lease at the Manas airbase, only togive it back to the Americans at a much higher cost.
Rogozin should grow up a bit – you can’t have it both ways. Eitheryou play the role of the spoiler and you accept the mess of the UnitedStates and NATO leaving Afghanistan as an unstable, radicalized warringmess, or you get behind the international effort to establish the bestsituation possible under the circumstances. It is not in Russia’snational security interests to have Afghanistan fail, though they seemloathe to admit this inconvenience (“This troubles Russia far less thanthe consequences for the region itself”). The objective of thisarticle is confusing – on the one hand, Russia likes the status quo,and enjoys watching American money, hard power, and influence drip awayinto nothing year after year in the war effort, and are likelyconfident that there is no such thing as success in a place likeAfghanistan. But on the other hand, they haven’t figured out just howmuch interference/assistance they should provide to keep things goingthis way.
Lastly, despite the title of the article, there are no lessonsexplained from Russia’s experience. Let’s keep in mind that they lostmore 14,000 soldiers in their war, while coalition deaths are at alittle over 1,500. If there were any lesson to learn, it would be toleave the country immediately – which is the opposite of their article.