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Russia faces major risks on Afghanistan despite Kremlin claiming propaganda victory over U.S.

Russia faces major risks on Afghanistan despite Kremlin claiming propaganda victory over U.S.

The unfolding crisis in Afghanistan poses substantial risks to Russia and Central Asia, geopolitical experts have warned, even as the Kremlin seeks to claim a propaganda victory over the U.S.

Initially, Russia’s response to the Taliban’s insurgence appeared to celebrate the defeat of the American-backed and trained Afghan government, as well as the U.S. departure. Russia’s ambassador to Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, praised the Taliban’s conduct and said the group had helped to make the Afghan capital safer in the first 24 hours after the U.S. exit. This is despite Russia officially recognizing the Taliban as a terrorist organization.

Moscow has a significant military and economic influence over former Soviet republics in Central Asia, including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, all of which directly border Afghanistan.

Russia on Wednesday started its own evacuation plans, sending four military planes to evacuate 500 Russian citizens and those of its regional allies. The directive, which came on the orders of President Vladimir Putin, marked an abrupt shift in the Kremlin’s stance to the Taliban’s takeover.

It came amid a massive withdrawal effort at Kabul airport, with countries scrambling to get people out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden. Tens of thousands of people had chaotically gathered at Hamid Karzai International Airport in the days since the Taliban took the capital, desperately seeking to secure safe passage out of the country.

Moscow has reinforced its military base in Tajikistan, a country that shares an 843-mile border with Afghanistan, where it is holding a month of military exercises. Reuters reported Wednesday that the Kremlin said it had learnt the lessons of the Soviet Union’s failed intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s and will not deploy armed forces there.

Olga Oliker, director for Europe and Central Asia at the International Crisis Group, told CNBC that Russia “very much recognizes” the potential security issues as a result of the Afghanistan crisis, for Central Asia and also for itself.

Putin has slammed the idea that some Western countries are looking to relocate refugees from Afghanistan in Central Asia while their visas to the U.S. and the European Union are being processed.

Among Afghanistan’s neighbours, Tajikistan has pledged to take in up to 100,000 refugees. It is working with the U.N. and other agencies to establish camps and other facilities as the humanitarian crisis unfolds.

Russia is expected to ratchet up the pressure on countries in Central Asia to make them join the Eurasian Economic Union, a Moscow-led initiative that currently includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Russia faces major risks on Afghanistan despite Kremlin claiming propaganda victory over U.S., CNBC, Aug 31

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