Rome '08 Workshop

Russia's Support for NATO in Afghanistan: Some Issues 

Lieutenant General Evgeniy Buzhinsky

Russian Ministry of Defense 

Lieutenant General Evgeniy Buzhinsky

A lot has been said about the importance of conflict settlement and especially about Afghanistan’s settlement. Allow me to add a Russian perspective on the settlement of Afghanistan because, to my mind, that is the most difficult problem to solve. 


We understand that a counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan has key significance for NATO. To some extent, it is a test of NATO’s ability to correspond to the global role it wants to play. We believe that the presence of international forces in Afghanistan and operations performed there are very important for the security of Russia as well. We also realize that if the Alliance’s operation fails and extremists come back to power in Kabul, the consequences will be hard to predict. 

Destabilization of Russia’s central Asian neighbors would create a dangerous conflict potential along the southern border of our country. That is why Russia supported this NATO operation from the very beginning and supports prolonging the international security assistance forces in Afghanistan, which are an important component of the international community’s efforts to restore peace and stability in the country. In spite of the fact that the Russian Federation does not participate in Afghanistan operations directly, our country is ready to continue rendering all possible support to ISAF and the Afghanistan national army as well. 

As I said at the initial stage of the operation, we provided our U.S. partners with all the information we had, including maps of minefields, and we also helped to equip forces of the Northern Alliance. I now repeat that there are no plans to send Russian military to Afghanistan because of understandable reasons. At the same time, we will assist post-war restoration of the country and participate in solving its social and economic problems as well as prevent the development of international terrorism and the spread of drugs. 


It has already been said that despite the considerable time that has passed since the failure of the Taliban regime, the situation in the country causes concern. Unfortunately, we cannot yet speak about real improvements in the environment there. Frankly speaking, the influence of the central government is limited to the Kabul area—the new Afghan authorities still do not control other parts of the country. As for the country’s economy, it exists only because of foreign donations and the opium trade. But the growth of Taliban activity is even worse than that. 

In our opinion, there can not be only a military solution to the Afghanistan problem. A balanced and flexible approach that takes into account both the realities of the country and the mentality of the Afghani people is necessary. So we welcome NATO’s complex approach to the solution of the Afghani problem. There is no doubt that integrating military and civil components and achieving more effective coordination of international efforts are the only ways to provide stability in the country. 

A process to restore Afghani statehood and economy should be supported by effective military efforts. Here again Russia is ready to render assistance such as professional training of Afghanistan’s army personnel as well as arms and military technical equipment deliveries and maintenance. Russia has already granted weapons and equipment in the amount of about U.S.$200 million to President Karzai's government. 


Unfortunately, our efforts to assist the Afghan government sometimes encounter obstacles that we find difficult to explain. For example, the pilot project of providing Russian aid and counsel concerning professional training of drug-fighting structures in Afghanistan and central Asia has stumbled. When we question Kabul’s refusal to send Afghan cadets to a drug counter-action course (a joint Russian aid and counsel project in Domodedovo), we hear explanations that Afghans behaved inadequately. The main argument concerns the opening of the Ministry of Interior Academy in Kabul, where necessary training is to be conducted. If that is the case, let’s stop the project if Afghans do not want it. 

Another example involves the agreement on providing military-technical assistance to Afghanistan, which expired in January 2006. We notified the Afghanis in advance that, according to Russian legislation, continuation of that kind of assistance was possible only after a corresponding request from the Afghan government. However, we still have not received any such request. Unofficially, we receive signals that there are plans to reequip Afghan forces with Western-made arms and equipment. If so, it should be said clearly: Thank you, we do not need this kind of assistance. But knowing about Afghan adherence to Russian-made weapons, I doubt that such reequipment is possible, at least in the short term. 

Another point is that the final documents from the last NATO summits make no reference to such an organization as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In fact, the organization has great experience in drug-threat counter-action, especially in Afghanistan. I think that developing cooperation between CSTO and NATO, which had dealings with security matters on both sides of Afghanistan’s borders, would be mutually beneficial. 

Certainly we know of the Alliance’s principal position not to deal with CSTO as an organization but to address its members on an individual, case-by-case basis. I am not going to elaborate on that, but my strong belief is that it is a mistake, especially in Afghan matters. I am sure that developing real cooperation with counter-regional organizations such as CSTO and perhaps the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) can play a positive role in the stabilization of the situation in the region, including terrorism and drug-threat counteraction. It would be useful to build up interaction in the area between old international organizations, especially those already involved in Afghanistan. 

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