Andrei Kortunov Examines Russias Positions on Central Asian security
Russia has joined the states of Central Asia in expressing alarm over recent military gains made by Afghanistan's Taliban movement, as well as the threat posed by the Islamic insurgency in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Leading Russian international security affairs expert Andrei Kortunov spoke with EurasiaNet about Russia's strategy and interests in Central Asia. The transcript of the interview follows:
EurasiaNet: The situation in Central Asia is deteriorating with the Taliban making advances, and a split has appeared among some Central Asian nations. Uzbekistan, in particular, is reaching out to the Taliban. How does Russia view President Islam Karimov's actions vis-à-vis the Taliban, and what might Russia do to respond?
Kortunov: Well, I think that the Russian position is dubious because, on the one hand, they are concerned about Taliban, and about connections between Talibs and the rebels in Chechnya. In Moscow, they know pretty well that there are some of what they call "mercenaries" from Afghanistan fighting in Chechnya, and there are links between the two regions. On the other hand, I think they realize that Uzbekistan doesn't have too many choices and if indeed the whole of Afghanistan, in the near future, is controlled by Talibs, then Karimov will have no other option but to start negotiating with them.
So Moscow understands that Uzbekistan really needs some fall-back positions. However, as far as I can see, they still believe in Moscow that the Talibs will not be able to control all the territory of the country, and that the [anti-Taliban] Northern Alliance will have enough power and local support to keep some territories in the north of the country. The recent developments in Afghanistan suggest that the Talibs are not that close to any ultimate victory, so depending on how the military situation changes, the participants might try to stick to their traditional partners, or maybe to look for a third party
Andrei Kortunov is president of the Moscow Public Science Foundation, and is the director of the Open Society Institute Russias education programs.