Let’s take a look at why
“A person who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it”. This famous quote of historian Santana has immensely pretentious Moscow. The Afghan War of 1979 led to the disintegration of the USSR. However, in the post-cold war era Afghanistan remained no longer imperative for Russia, because Russia was busy in collating its scattered parts. The civil war in Afghanistan which created a Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 1996 left Afghanistan into political chaos. In the post-cold war period Russia remained absent from Afghanistan’s political scenario. In order to fill up this vacuum the US served as a catalyst and invaded Afghanistan under the veil of curbing terrorism and counterterrorism after the 9/11 attacks.
The event of 9/11 brought Russia back to the political life of Afghanistan. Russian President Vladimir Putin presented his five-point plan in support of the US war against terrorism. He pledged that his Russian government would:
(a) share intelligence with their American counterparts
(b) open Russian airspace for flights providing humanitarian assistance
(c) cooperate with Russia’s Central Asian allies to provide similar kinds of airspace access to American flights
(d) participate in international search and rescue efforts, and
(e) increase direct assistance – humanitarian as well as military – to the Northern Alliance and the Rabbani government in Afghanistan.
The support of President Putin in the US war against terrorism was to bring Russia back to the political sphere of Afghanistan. The US reciprocated by supporting the Russian stance over Chechnya. The White House spokesperson said, “Chechnya leadership should cut all the contacts with the terrorist organisations including Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda”. Russia`s resurgence in Afghanistan was mainly because of the US made its bases in Uzbekistan city of Manas and was actively involved in the Central Asian Republicans.
However, the relations between the US and Russia were deteriorated after the Ukrainian crisis in early 2015. After the Ukrainian crisis the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia. John E. Smith, the acting Office of Foreign Assistance Control director, said in a statement. “It is critical that Russia takes the steps necessary to comply with its obligations under the Minsk Agreements and to ensure a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine.” The imposed sanctions on Russia are still not uplifted. After the victory of Republican candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 elections, Moscow has changed its strategy and is calling the shots in Afghanistan. Moscow`s active participation in the domestic and regional affairs related to Afghanistan are to gain its political and economic interests in the region. The Russian Presidential envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, has issued a statement that “Moscow will be hosting a conference between China, Pakistan and Afghanistan on the issues related to Afghanistan.” The conference would take place at the heels of Heart of Asia conference. The prime issues related to the intense security situation in Afghanistan would be in the spotlight.
Moscow wants to be the game changer in Afghanistan and is reluctant to remain in isolation like the post-cold war era. Firstly, After the statement of the newly elected President Trump of the US that he does not believe in the Democrats policy of regime change and will eliminate the terrorist outfits either in shape of Islamic State (IS) or Taliban. Such statement has issued concern for Moscow, because if a new war starts in Afghanistan, then it will increase the US military presence in the region and can also affect the Russian influence on Central Asian Republicans. Secondly, the growing presence of IS in the region could also affect Moscow`s interest because the terrorist organisations such as Islamic Militants of Uzbekistan (IMU) can join the IS and these militants can infiltrate into Russia. Thirdly, Moscow wants to remain active in Afghanistan, because Russia wants to uplift the sanctions imposed on Russia after the Ukrainian crisis by using Afghanistan as a trump card. Fourthly, the Lazuli route agreement with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and Afghanistan connecting Afghanistan to Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea has also alarmed Moscow. This route will connect Afghanistan to Europe and it will open new horizons of transit and trade. This new route of connectivity can also economically benefit Russia. After having such lucrative options Russia cannot go back to isolation on the issue of Afghanistan. After the active participation of the regional and global players in Afghanistan. A New Great Game has emerged in Afghanistan in which the US, Russia and China are actively playing their respective roles taking Pakistan and India as clients. China wants to connect Afghanistan through CPEC behind the veil of Pakistan, while the US is trying to connect Afghanistan through Chabahar port taking India and Iran as a client. Moscow wants to be the key player in this New Great Game, hence Moscow is calling the shots in Afghanistan and connecting the regional players such China and Pakistan, taking maximum benefit from the CPEC, the Afghan peace talks hosted by Pakistan and from the rift US and China, India and Pakistan.