The Afghan Enigma

snaps17207_ukraine_gallery__470x322.jpgWhat, exactly, is Russia’s stance on assisting America on the Afghan front of its war on terror? Today, The L.A. Times explores the conundrum of Russian benevolence, a mystery wrapped inside an enigma wrapped inside a Soviet-era presidential Babushka doll.

From The L.A. Times:

“In recent days, Russian officials have rushed forward to offer logistical help to NATO troops in Afghanistan — at the same time dipping into a dwindling budget to offer impoverished Kyrgyzstan more than $2 billion in an apparent payoff for ejecting a U.S. military base crucial to the war against the Taliban.

“In fact, Russia is tugged between two strong, conflicting impulses. It distrusts U.S. motives, especially when it comes to America’s penetration of former Soviet states. But Moscow’s sense of invulnerability appears shaken by falling oil prices and the precarious economy. Many analysts believe the Kremlin is looking for an opening to make nice with the West. Nearby Afghanistan, where instability also spells danger for Russia, presents a handy opening.”

On the 20th anniversary of Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Moscow officials have been explaining some of their own mistakes in the area, as reported by the BBC.  According to Colonel Oleg Kulakov, who served in Afghanistan and is now a lecturer and historian in Moscow, “The conflict cannot be solved by military means, it’s an illusion. No-one can reach any political goal in Afghanistan relying on military force. Frankly speaking, they are doomed to repeat our mistakes.”

Sir Roderick Braithwaite, a former British ambassador to Moscow, adds:

“We went in with a limited objective to start with, but like theRussians hoping that they could build socialism in Afghanistan, wehoped we could build democracy. We haven’t got enough troops there to dominate the territoryand we have a government in Kabul whose authority barely runs insidethe capital, let alone outside it.

“We have no long-term strategy and unlike the Russians we have beenthere for eight years without even beginning to plan to leave,” he adds.