Yurgens: A Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is no picnic for Russia

Buried down at the bottom of this blog post attacking Obama’s Russia policy (mostly just picking on Joe Biden – it is the National Journal after all), are some interesting quotes from Igor Yurgens – a key advisor to Medvedev and one of those few remaining in the Kremlin who make quite a lot of sense.

“The dichotomy of attitudes towards Russia in the U.S. administration does not make things easy for us,” said Igor Yurgens, an economic policy adviser to Medvedev, at a Nov. 5 lecture in London hosted by the International Institute of Strategic Studies. “It is a problem.” (…)

Putting historical wrongs, real and perceived, to rest is especially important because there are issues where Washington’s and Moscow’s interests converge, none bigger than Afghanistan. (…)

Stabilizing Afghanistan is even more crucial. While Russia likes tosee the U.S. in hot water, this is one case where it doesn’t want thepot to boil over. Surging poppy production in Afghanistan feeds theheroin addiction that is tearing at Russian society, and drugtrafficking in Central Asia threatens Russia’s “soft underbelly,” whichit frets about constantly.

There may be even more at stake for Russia than the U.S. inAfghanistan, Yurgens believes. If the Taliban takes control, itthreatens political stability in Central Asia and raises the specter ofPakistani nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands, he said.

“Do you think,” Yurgens added, “this is a birthday present for Russia?”