Russia’s Afghan Policy in the Regional and Russia-West Contexts

16 May 2018

(IFRI) This report seeks to explain the main trends in Russia’s evolving Afghanistan policy, with the focus on its regionalization, diversification, and new emphasis on diplomacy that culminated in Moscow regional peace consultations. It argues that none of Russia’s Afghanistan-related concerns can be alleviated as long as the armed conflict there continues in full force. This makes Moscow genuinely interested in stabilization.

However, the mere combination of military pressure against the Taliban and Western support of the Afghan government cannot achieve stabilization. As Russia remains severely constrained on any hard-security track and has limited leverage inside Afghanistan, there is little it can do apart from pushing for a regionally inclusive political process and supporting, within its capacity, anti-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) efforts at national, regional and international levels. Both tasks require access to all major regional players, including even limited communication channels with the Taliban. The report explores the effects of the evolving US/NATO factor on Russia’s policy and Moscow’s reaction to the revised US policy on Afghanistan under President Trump. Finally, it looks at how Afghanistan features in the rarely addressed Russia-Europe/EU context and whether there is any potential for cooperation or parallel efforts with similar or compatible goals.

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